On Venango Street, a man who brought roses to neighbors is mourned

Pete Luciano in a family photo with three of his sons. He died trying to save 13-year-old son Jordan (not pictured) in Wissahickon Creek near Devil's Pool on Friday.
Pete Luciano in a family photo with three of his sons. He died trying to save 13-year-old son Jordan (not pictured) in Wissahickon Creek near Devil's Pool on Friday.
Posted: September 10, 2013

ON MOTHER'S Day, Geanna "Gigi" Harper could count on Pete Luciano to bring her a rose.

Luciano wasn't her son, or even a relative, she said, but each year he would stop by her house on Venango Street in North Philadelphia, two doors down from where his wife and children lived.

Now others will be bringing flowers for Luciano.

On Friday, during a family outing, Luciano, 41, jumped into the Wissahickon Creek near the area known as Devil's Pool to try to save his 13-year-old son, Jordan, as the boy struggled in the water. Both drowned, and Jordan's younger siblings - ages 12, 9 and 7 - ran to nearby Valley Green Inn for help.

Luciano's valiant effort to save his son didn't surprise Harper.

"That is a heroic thing he did, but you have to expect that from Pete, because that's what kind of guy he was," Harper said yesterday outside the home of Luciano's wife and kids.

"I would sit and wait on Mother's Day - I buried my son on Mother's Day [in 2003], and I used to wait for Pete because every Mother's Day he used to give the ladies on the block roses. He used to give all of us flowers. All of us one flower, but the one flower really mattered [more] than a whole dozen.

"It's the little things that count in life. He made it count for us ladies on the block," she added.

Iris Kitchen, Jordan's grandmother, said her daughter, Michelle Luciano, had been married to Pete Luciano for about 20 years after they became high-school sweethearts.

Although the two separated recently, Kitchen said, Pete Luciano, who worked as a security guard, was a good father to the couple's eight children. He would often take the kids to the movies, skating, or biking. He also taught the youngest four to swim, including Jordan, she said.

"He tried to be the best dad that he could, to do what he can," Kitchen said. "He all the time considered his family, his children. I love him for the special quality that he had to do that."

She described Jordan as a lovable and affectionate kid who enjoyed playing basketball and video games, and was an excellent student.

They thought he was playing

According to Kitchen, when Jordan was having trouble staying afloat, his siblings initially thought he was playing, but then their father jumped in, and 12-year-old Justin held back his younger siblings. When their dad didn't come back up, Justin decided to run for help.

It was the second time Pete Luciano had taken the kids to that stretch of the Wissahickon, Kitchen said. Police said the water in the area where the two were recovered was 10 feet deep and has a sharp drop.

It's illegal to swim in city creeks, and despite constant warnings from police and city officials, at least four people have drowned in the waters this summer. Three weeks ago, 15-year-old Sebastien Sanon, of Wissinoming, went missing in Pennypack Creek.

"That part of the [creek], I wish they'd cancel all that, have signs, put [park rangers] out there," Kitchen pleaded. "It's dangerous to anybody."

The family plans to set up a memorial fund to help defray funeral costs. Kitchen said she was overwhelmed by the show of support from family, friends and neighbors.

"I'm trying to be busy . . . but it's tearing me apart," she said through tears. "It's two of my people that I loved."

On Twitter: @ChroniclesofSol

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