As summer arrives, it’s time to remember Zach Lacy

  • Zoe Lacy (right) and Zach Lacy’s girlfriend Meghan McGonagle with the life saving equipment that Zoe came up with near the Hannah Duston marker in Boscawen with the Merrimack River in the backround GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Zoe Lacy, right, and Meghan McGonagle, who was Zach Lacy’s girlfriend at the time of his death, stand with the life saving equipment that Zoe set up near the Hannah Duston marker in Boscawen with the Merrimack River in the background. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • The tee shirts for the first annual Zach Lacy Memorial Corn Hole Tournament at the Electrisola Ball Field in Boscawen on Sunday afternoon, August 1, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor columnist
Published: 5/28/2022 1:17:32 PM

As Zoe Lacy sees it, the river safety box she created for her senior project at Merrimack Valley High School might one day make all the difference needed.

It’s a smorgasbord of items to ensure that an individual on land has the resources to aid a person who’s in danger of drowning. No such safety measure existed two summers ago, when Zoe’s twin brother, Zach Lacy, drowned in the Merrimack River, causing sadness to descend upon the Penacook-Boscawen region, and reintroducing awareness of dangerous, unseen currents.

In the box, Zoe included an air horn, a whistle, a warming jacket, a shiny silver thermal blanket, a buoy, a life preserver, rope and hope.

“Our plan in the future is raising money or getting donations,” Zoe, who lives in Salisbury, said this week. “We want to do more, put more of these down the river.”

The family’s initial idea to create something good from tragedy – a corn hole tournament to raise money and provide financial assistance for students going to college – occurred last summer, and the family announced recently that the second annual tournament is scheduled for July 31 at a youth ballfield in Boscawen.

That’s one day before the second anniversary of Zach’s death. Last year’s event raised about $10,000, used to pay college tuition for a Merrimack Valley High student.

In Zach’s name.

“It will be a good day to remember Zach,” said Zach’s mother, Lisa Jones. “Everyone will enjoy themselves and get us through a hard weekend and then we’ll come home and talk about the memories and look at pictures.”

Family photos from this month’s prom will be added later to those from the school’s June 11 graduation, when both pride and pain will run through the family.

“Every day is different, and it’s tough for her graduating alone this year,” Jones said. “Some days are better than others. The kids will go to prom and do other stuff and he is not there to do it. We’re happy for one, but we are sad for her brother.”

Zach drowned on Aug. 1, 2020. He was 15, entering his junior year of high school, along with Zoe, at Merrimack Valley.

He was swimming with friends near Oxbow Pond Road in Canterbury, just north of the Hannah Duston Memorial. Authorities said Zach began to struggle and went under the water before anyone could help.

He did not resurface and was later recovered by a Concord firefighter who dove off a rescue boat in Canterbury, just north of the Hannah Duston.

At the time, Zach’s death was the third major incident on the Merrimack River in a 10-week stretch. Two people had died in the water along Pebble Beach in Canterbury in May of 2020.

Some people mourning Zach’s death wanted to speak about him at the inaugural corn hole festival, fighting through tears and deep breaths to do so. Zoe was too hurt to talk then. This week, she said, “It does not get any easier. Just find ways to manage day-to-day.”

Next month’s events – awards night on June 6, graduation on June 11 and the corn hole tourney on July 31 – will add relief to the family’s psyche, at least for a little while. They all offer a chance to recall good times, or, for those who never knew him, learn what made Zach unique.

He was a sports star in football and lacrosse at MV, part of a group that often evolves into an insular clique. Zach, though, expanded his circle of friends in all directions.

Jones called him goofy. “He was friends with the jocks and the nerds,” she said.

Meanwhile, Zoe and Zach’s girlfriend, Meghan McGonagle, were determined to raise awareness and money in Zach’s name.

McGonagle started a petition, calling upon Gov. Chris Sununu and other lawmakers to close the river to swimmers and tubers between the Boscawen boat launch and the Hannah Duston Memorial.

That effort has since stalled. But Zoe’s creation has a real chance of living for a long, long time. Average students with limited means are the ones who benefit.

“We didn’t have a goal, we just wanted to put into a scholarship fund at the high school,” Jones said. “We can do it for years to come, even after my kids are gone.”

Could Zoe’s invention had saved Zach? We don’t know. We do know, however, that Zoe wants to create something big. With permission from the city, she’d like to spread several boxes along the Merrimack River.

She may display her invention at the corn hole event. She’d like to secure one under the bridge near the Hannah Duston Memorial, complete with a plaque asking the public to show some respect for a potentially life-saving idea.

“It would say, ‘Use for emergencies only,’ ” Jones said, “so they don’t take it out and float down the river or blow the air horn.”

Zoe, in fact, believes she’s thought of everything in her pursuit of a safer world. Zach’s name will be part of the movement. Her river safety box was judged on a pass-fail basis.

“Yes,” Zoe said. “I passed.”

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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