New Albany High School's Michael Lucey remembered as tall in stature but looming larger in kindness
A few weeks before he died, 17-year-old Michael Lucey was on a road trip with his mother, Lindsay Harris, to visit the universities of Washington and Oregon.
But although he loved being out west, the New Albany High School senior told his mother he wanted to attend the University of Dayton to be close to his friends after he graduated next year, Harris said.
Lucey loved his friends almost as much as his mom, Harris said.
“They were his family, the brothers he never had,” she said.
Those friends since have shown an outpouring of support, reaching out with emails and phone calls to share stories of how much Lucey was loved, Harris said.
Lucey died after an Aug. 2 car accident in Genoa Township.
His mother and those who knew him described him as kind-hearted. Their recollections paint a picture of a gentle giant, a skilled basketball player and an intelligent student who valued his family and friends.
Harris said her son had been looking forward to seeing friends Sunday night, Aug. 2. The group of five had planned to play Pokemon Go together and had been talking about it all week.
At about 9:30 p.m. that night, the boys, all 17 and incoming New Albany seniors, drove to Genoa Township, Harris said. At about 11:30 p.m., their vehicle crashed, she said.
According to the crash report, Lucey was in the front passenger seat when the driver lost control of the SUV, went off the right side of the road, struck a mailbox and rolled several times before coming to rest on its side.
Lucey had to be extricated from the SUV and was taken to Mount Carmel St. Ann’s hospital in Westerville.
The driver was taken to Mount Carmel East Hospital with serious injuries, according to the report.
One backseat passenger was taken to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and the two others were treated at the scene.
The crash report said all five teens were wearing seat belts.
A man who arrived first on the scene said the hilly road was notorious for accidents and young drivers trying to get airborne while driving, Harris said.
Speed definitely was a factor in the crash, she said.
After receiving a call at 12:30 a.m. Aug. 3 that her son was at Mount Carmel St. Ann’s, Harris went to meet him. Despite being in fragile condition, he was able to squeeze her hand, she said.
He died a short time later.
Harris said the staff members at St. Ann’s were incredible.
“I just appreciated everyone’s transparency, I think, and honesty,” she said.
Harris also expressed gratitude for the New Albany school community. After high school principal Ken Kraemer sent an email notifying the community of Lucey’s death, her phone was flooded with text messages of support, she said.
Members of Lucey’s basketball team gave her food and flowers, Harris said.
Basketball was the foundation for her son’s close network of friends, Harris said.
Lucey first played in New Albany’s recreational league in second grade. He played for New Albany Middle School and New Albany High School from in grades 7 to 9 and then organized a recreation team called Soupreme with other friends who were not playing for the high school.
The team won New Albany’s recreation-league championship two years in a row, Harris said. In spring, he would also play on the Ohio Elite team for AAU basketball, a league for premier athletes.
Lucey stood 6 feet, 3 inches tall, and growing up he was always a head above others, Harris said. On the basketball court, he earned the nickname “the Mailman” because he was known for delivering, she said. It was the nickname of former Utah Jazz star Karl Malone.
“Michael’s always been the big man on the team,” Harris said.
But Lucey wasn’t known for letting his basketball prowess go to his head. Harris said her son will leave a legacy of unconditional love and kindness behind.
“Michael was the kindest guy I’ve ever met,” she said.
School staff members who knew Lucey recall a thoughtful and intelligent student.
Lindsay Bennett, who teaches math at New Albany High School, said she had Lucey for honors Algebra II when he was sophomore during the 2018-19 school year.
Bennett said she remembers Lucey as a quieter student, bright and intelligent.
But when she got to know him, she realized that he was funny, as well.
“He was always making a joke,” Bennett said.
Bennett said Lucey was the ringleader in his group of three other friends in class. He began turning in quizzes with “dad jokes” written on the top or back of the papers, and his friends followed suit, she said.
She even began writing jokes back to them when she returned their quizzes.
“He truly was a person who brought happiness and light into the classroom,” she said.
Deputy principal Amy Warren also met Lucey during his sophomore year.
“Over the past few years, I have watched Michael’s confidence grow,” Warren said. “He gained the ability to advocate for himself and others.”
Warren said she would miss seeing Lucey in the high school’s halls. Though he was tall in stature, he was careful about the space he took up, and he was quiet and kind.
“Michael was careful with his words, thoughtful and considerate,” Warren said. “He truly loved his family and his friends. That is what makes me most proud to have known him.”
Warren said the school is planning a virtual Pass the Light Ceremony in Lucey’s memory. Students, staff members and community members may share videos with stories about Lucey, pictures of him and written statements about him by 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12, by emailing email@example.com.
In addition to his mother, Lucey leaves behind his father, Ramon Lucey.
Harris said because of restrictions associated with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, her family has decided to postpone a celebration of his life until social gatherings are safer.
The Columbus Dispatch reporter Jim Woods contributed to this story.