More than 700 people – and dozens of pets – came to St. Margaret's Episcopal Church Saturday to honor Dr. Jack Mannix, a veterinarian who had been part of the fabric of San Juan Capistrano for decades.
Only 60 years old, Mannix died suddenly last week while taking a nap right after performing a surgery.
Daughter Erika Mannix Picciolo said it was fitting her father died in his sleep. Helping animals pass peacefully was the main reason why Mannix chose to be a veterinarian instead of a pediatrician, a profession he was also considering.
He called euthanasia “falling asleep and then drifting just pass. How appropriate he passed the same way,” she said.
Elin Mannix Lightbodysaid Mannix was a big saver of mementos, keeping several large memory boxes full of notes, photos, emails and even thank you letters from his patients’ owners. Many of them were on display in Sillers Hall, where the four-legged could join the two-legged in remembering.
Bob Arrigoni of San Juan Capistrano brought his lab Luca, 8, his fourth patient of Dr. Mannix’s.
“With the last one, Dr. Mannix came to our house, and we all cried together,” Arrigoni said.
Heather Lindquist of San Juan Capistrano said Dr. Mannix even humanely and caringly euthanized a goldfish, a 6-year-old prize from a county fair that grew to 7 inches and eventually had a cancer on its tail.
She came with Pepper, a parti poodle, a 12-year patient of Dr. Mannix. Like many in attendance, Lindquest doesn’t know where to go to replace the caring she found in Dr. Mannix.
“I don’t even want to think about that,” said David Perry of San Clemente. His golden retriever Kai was a rescue that Dr. Mannix nursed back to health.
“He left some pretty large footprints in the world,” Perry said.
Family members shared lots of treasured and light-hearted moments – such as how he liked to make restaurant reservations. When the hostess called out, “Elvis, party of five,” daughter Erika knew dad made the arrangements.
Son Ryan Mannix said among the treasures in the memory boxes was a New Year’s resolution list from 1980, the year he was born, along with self-evaluation the following year to see how he’d done.
Among Dr. Mannix’s goals, that wife “Lizzie and child are healthy to full term.” Evaluation: Good, Ryan Mannix said. For the goal of getting and staying in better shape, he only gave himself a “fair.” For the goal of becoming a better veterinarian, he graded himself: “Learning daily.”
Although they graduated high school in 1970 from St. Augustine High School in San Diego, 18 of his classmates showed up to share memories – they were that close – and sing the alma mater.
Joe Taylor remembered the pre-Dr. Mannix being asked his senior year by his Latin teacher where he saw himself in the future. He uttered in perfect Latin, but translated here: "For the tenacious, no route is impassible."
Patients probably never heard Dr. Mannix get preachy. He had a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, in his office that may have gone largely unnoticed, Ryan Mannix said. His father also subscribed to the idiom, attributed to St. Francis: Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.
“I’m confident my father preached the gospel, even if he didn’t find it necessary to use words,” Ryan Mannix said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Mannix was the veterinarian to Editor Penny Arévalo’s two dogs.