Thomas Walker Luckey, an artist, sculptor and architect renowned for his one-of-a-kind climbing sculptures, died Sunday, August 19 at Yale New Haven Hospital from complications of pneumonia. He was 72 and had a long family association with the Vineyard.
A graduate of the Yale School of Architecture, Tom’s fascination with movement and his desire to create positive spaces inspired a diverse portfolio, including merry-go-rounds, a convertible staircase/slide, and the iconic Luckey Climbers that have delighted children and adults alike in cities across America and the world.
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.
He was born on Jan. 6, 1940, in Quantico, Va., on the Marine Corps base where his family was stationed. His parents were Cary Dabney Walker and Robert Burneston Luckey, Lieut. Gen. USMC. His maternal grandparents were Gen. Merriwether Lewis Walker and Edith Colby Carey, and his paternal grandparents were George B. Luckey and Alice Owens. Tom was the quintessential military brat, moving frequently throughout his childhood.
Even in those early years, Tom showed a unique ability to envision and bring to life imagined forms. He was always working with his hands and led by his dreams. From simple carvings, he built up to larger projects, including a little cottage on the Vineyard which he built when he was 16. He eventually settled in Branford, Conn., where he subjected his house to imaginative additions and modifications for more than 35 years.
Throughout his career, Tom welcomed challenges and was stimulated by obstacles. He embraced uncertainty in his art and adapted to unanticipated hurdles. Most recently, he suffered a tragic accident that left him paralyzed from the shoulders down. This was a change in his life most would find impossible, but Tom was often heard to say that “falling on my head was the best thing that ever happened to me.” It was a brave statement that he somehow made believable with his remarkable wit and optimism. Indeed, his career took off and his social life flourished during the final chapters of his life, testament to his remarkable talent and insatiable curiosity.
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 M. Possidente. He is also survived by his sister Laura, brother William, and three grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Sept. 8, 3:30 p.m. at Battell Chapel at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., followed by a reception at 200 Meadow street, East Haven Conn. All are welcome.