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THOMAS WALKER LUCKEY
Born: January 6, 1940
Thomas Walker Luckey, for whom life often seemed child's play due to his designing complex structures known as Luckey Climbers for youngsters, died Sunday, August 19, 2012 at Yale-New Haven Hospital of pneumonia complications. He was 72.
His demise came shortly after he was an effervescent presence at the class's 50th Reunion, undeterred by his attending in the wheelchair he'd occupied as a result of a tumble from a second-floor window to an interior courtyard in 2005 and about which he was quoted as saying - typically, many will attest - "falling on my head was the best thing that ever happened to me."
A Branford, Connecticut resident for many years, his obituary in the Branford Patch included this paragraph: "Tom Luckey was a visionary, a creative genius, a legendary optimist, an exuberant showboat, and an infamous fun-maker. He was an avid collector of friends, regardless of age; all that mattered was whether you were willing to take a leap with him toward his ultimate goal: superlative joy."
In recognition of the sculptural staircases, toy and carousel designs but mostly in a nod to the colorful one-of-a-kind climbers that were alluring to children and adults, curators Aidan O'Connor and Juliet Kinchin of the Museum of Architecture and Design wrote in a tribute, "The designs are exuberant, even miraculous, incorporating stable platforms suggestive of magic carpets, leaves, or other organic shapes that seem to float in space while encouraging unfettered ascension."
Lou Casagrande, president and former chief executive officer of the Boston Children's Museum, which owns one of the climbers and considers it the establishment centerpiece, said of Luckey, "There is probably no person in my museum career who inspired me more, both as an artist and as a courageous and outrageous champion of children as path seekers and creators of their own joy. He's the best. Scratch him, and he's still five years old, with that innate sense of fun."
Robert A. M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture, said on hearing of the death that Tom was "possessed of talent, and it will carry on, no matter what."
Tom was born to Robert Burneston Luckey, Lt. Gen. USMC, and Cary Dabney Walker in Quantico, Virginia on January 6, 1940. His paternal grandparents were George P. Luckey and Alice Owens and his maternal grandparents were General Merriwether Lewis Walker and Edith Colby Carey.
When young, he was already working with his hands. Starting with small carvings, he advanced to bigger undertakings that included when he was sixteen a small Martha's Vineyard cottage.
He prepared at Camp Lejeune High School in North Carolina and Westminster. At Yale he was a member of Calhoun, Delta Kappa Epsilon and Desmos.. He was also on the freshman swimming team, the Calhoun football team and in P. L. C. (lance corporal). He earned his BA and then his M. Arch. at the Yale School of Architecture.
Tom is survived by his wife, Ettie Minor Luckey, and their children, daughter Kit and son Walker, as well as two older children, daughter Owen and son Spencer, from his first marriage to Elizabeth T. Mason.
Always cogitating about design, Tom thought up and built what was referred to as "The Luckey Table." It's a dining table that expands from six places to ten and has been described by antiques expert Robert Porter, a former Yale College dean, as "the first development in the expandable dining room table since Duncan Phyfe."
On his Lucky LLC website, Tom proclaims, "What I'm probably doing [is] going for the big high the plateau where the pieces will sing together and the energy explode. My idea of perfect is to be listening to the absolute truth calling back from the thing I'm making and to have enough sense, enough humility, enough humanity, to hear it."
written by David Finkle