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Cornhole, bonding and sunshine combine to create a tribute to Zach Lacy 

  • Zoe Lacy, twin sister of Zach Lacy, (left) and Meghan McGonagle, Zach’€™s girlfriend, share a laugh as they compete against each other at the inaugural Zach Lacy Memorial Cornhole Tournament in Boscawen on Sunday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Meghan McGonagle tosses a bean bag at the first Annual Zach Lacy Memorial Corn Hole Tournament to establish a scholarship in his name at Merrimack Valley High School. McGonagle helped set up the event in honor of her boyfriend. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Zoe Lacy, twin sisiter of Zach Lacy, pauses during the moment of silence in honor of him at first Annual Zach Lacy Memorial Corn Hole Tournament on Sunday, August 1, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Mark McGonagle gets ready to throw first Annual Zach Lacy Memorial Corn Hole Tournament on Sunday, August 1, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Zoe Lacy, twin sister of Zach Lacy, (left) and Meghan McGonagle, Zach’s girlfriend, share a laugh as they compete against each other at the first Annual Zach Lacy Memorial Corn Hole Tournament in Boscawen on Sunday, August 1, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Zoe Lacy, twin sister of Zach Lacy, (left) and Meghan McGonagle, Zach’s girlfriend, share a laugh as they compete against each other at the first Annual Zach Lacy Memorial Corn Hole Tournament in Boscawen on Sunday, August 1, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Contestants arrive with cornhole boards to the Zach Lacy Memorial Corn Hole Tournament. Electrisola, Bryon Septic and All-Tow were sponsors for the scholarship fundraiser. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • The T-shirts for the Zach Lacy Memorial Corn Hole Tournament are a tribute to the teen who died last summer.

Monitor columnist
Published: 8/2/2021 4:42:03 PM

The bean bags floated gently through the air, like salmon jumping past hungry bears.

One after another, in a never-ending cycle, they flew on Sunday, with the sun beating down hard. From 15 cornhole stations down both the left- and right-field foul lines at a ballfield in Boscawen.

That was the plan – laid out at a restaurant about a month ago over eggs and pancakes – by Zach Lacy’s girlfriend, Meghan McGonagle, and their friend, Sadie Merrow.

Raise money to keep afloat a scholarship at Merrimack Valley High School in Zach’s name. Figure out an appropriate activity that all ages would like. And, of course, have fun.

No easy task. Especially for the family. Zach was 15 when he drowned in the Merrimack River one year ago last Sunday. He was one month from his junior year at Merrimack Valley High School.

Those closest to Zach wanted people who loved him to gather as one, remember, laugh, throw bean bags, raise money. Eighty teams of two players each registered, meaning this fundraiser was a smash hit. Grassy parking areas were packed.

“I’m hoping I can get through today with everyone’s support,” said Hank Lacy, Zach’s dad, before the competition began. “I’m more of a person that runs and hides for a day if I’m upset. It’s very difficult here, and I’m getting a lot of hugs and ‘I love yous’ from everybody, so it’s pulling me through.”

That only lasted so long. A few minutes. “Today is a rough day for me,” Hank continued. “Waking up this morning was rough. It’s the one-year anniversary. Last night was fine. Today brings everything back.”

Hank’s voice cracked. He sniffled. His eyes were hidden behind sunglasses. Zach’s twin sister, Zoe Lacy, also had trouble communicating. She politely declined an interview request.

“I just can’t right now,” she said.

A year is not a long time following something like this. A billion years aren't, either. Zach was a talented lacrosse and football player, a lover of goofy jokes and the water.

Along with sister Zoe, there are three older brothers: Max Lacy, Alex Lacy and Andrew Jones.

Most neighborhoods have a home like the Lacy’s. Remember? Where all the kids met, sometimes spontaneously. No plan was needed.

They came and they went with the nonchalance and comfort of, well, of Zach and his brothers and sister. Doors weren’t locked. Hey, they were rarely closed.

They went to Zach’s after school, before the big game, through the summer, 

“We would have group hangouts in middle school and we would always go to the Lacy’s, always, and we had amazing memories,” said Kendelye Prive, 17.

Added Rylee Boucher, “The Lacy’s was the place to hang out.”

Lives changed last year on Aug. 1. A Saturday. Zach and his family had returned from a vacation. He and his friends went swimming in the Merrimack. Tubing, actually, to celebrate someone’s birthday.

They entered the Merrimack River from Jamie Welch Memorial Park, Boscawen.

McGonagle said she spoke to Zach that day. She agreed to pick him up at the Boscawen park-and-ride lot that afternoon. He never showed.

A strong young man, an athlete, Zach underestimated the Merrimack’s unseen strength, below the surface. He was not wearing a life jacket.

Exactly one year later, his family and hundreds of people played cornhole, spread all over a youth baseball field, to raise money for the local high school scholarship named for Zach.

The oldest sibling, 31-year-old Andrew Jones, was 15 years older than Zach. He coached him in everything, from T-ball to lacrosse to basketball to football.

“Less than a brother and maybe more like a second father to him,” Jones told me. “That’s how we bonded. Me teaching him sports.”

That made Jones smile. It was bittersweet, though. An emotional volley, back and forth, sadness over what everyone lost, happiness over what they still had.

“I knew going into this it was going to be a rough day,”  Jones said. “My thoughts are always about how my mom and dad are going to feel. That’s why I thought this was a good idea, get them around people instead of sitting around.”

There always seems to be people watching, cushioning the hurt for Hank, his wife, Lisa Jones, and the kids. In fact, the old crew, Zach’s friends, still hang at Club Lacy, meeting and mixing and having fun. It makes them feel better, being close to him this way.

 “I was excited to get up and come see everyone,” McGonagle told me. “It keeps my mind off everything, keeps everyone together. We’ve gotten closer to (the family) since this happened.”

All of Zach's friends seem to be closer to the Lacys. Those informal meetings at the house are still part of the community routine. There’s a variation, though. A slight change to the end of these bonding moments.

“It helps me because I like seeing everyone doing well,” Hank said. “I never let any of them leave my house without saying I love you.”

 “I need to do that now, because I didn't get that chance.”


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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