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Tom Luckey passed away at age 72.
Tom Luckey has been a presence at Prickly Mountain and throughout the world as one of the most gifted and creative designer-sculptors in America. His children’s climbers are keynote pieces in museums, public gardens and children’s museums from the U.S. to Mexico to China and Europe.
Tom passed away last week with pneumonia. For the past seven years, my good friend was technically bedridden and wheelchair bound after a tragic fall split his spinal cord paralyzing him from the neck down. Operative phrase: Technically, because anyone who is as fortunate as I to know and love Tom knew that his spirit could not be tethered; that gravity simply did not apply – his soul and his soaring imagination lifted him higher than I can jump – as if he existed in a perennial state of flight.
Tom’s genius was inventing seemingly impossible solutions to everyday problems. And, in a way that guaranteed to make you laugh and smile. He made a stairway that changed into a slide if you wanted to ride down, or a bedroom in a revolving cylinder, or a floor made of cushioned carpet molded to the shapes of the human body in every conceivable position. He made a business room wall morph into a conference table… but the climbers were the most magical. Some rose 50 feet in the air where children couldn’t resist the urge to scamper, climb and wiggle around on pods and cushioned plywood leaves, and invent their own play fantasy. Tom had built the safety into it. But he was not one to tell a kid to “eat his vegetables”; they were in good hands: Tom’s hands.
But, more than that, all these contributions to a wonderful world of joy was his daily interaction with everyone he met. He was a natural clown and joker and he would, within minutes, have you laughing and enjoying every moment.
Tom was a legend and inspiration to all who met him. It never occurred to him or to anyone with whom he shared his indefatigable energy that he was a quadriplegic. His momentum was observable, palpable and conveyed with simply his head, eyes and ideas. His mind leapt; his spirit followed. He once said that the fall was the best thing that ever happened to him because he could see the world in such a special way and be a part of it.
All of us who knew him and those who were touched by his legend know this is the end of an era. And we will miss and cherish the years he was here with us.
The memorial was at Battell Chapel at Yale University on Saturday, September 8, at 3:30 p.m. Another memorial will be on Prickly Mountain at a time to be announced.
Tom, we all love you,