Friends and family remember USS Ronald Reagan sailor at memorial
PITTSBURG — Danyelle Luckey had a long reach during a short life, and some of that came back to her Wednesday: from a beauty supply store manager who knew she was also “hiring” her constant-companion mom; a friend who said he played college basketball and escaped the streets largely inspired by conversations he had with her; and neighbors who praised “Sister Danyelle” and her family as wonderful people who made a difference.
But according to a letter from Capt. Michael “Buzz” Donnelly read at her memorial service Wednesday at Solomon Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Pittsburg, Navy Seaman Luckey also made a name for herself — and a reputation as a “good shipmate” — in less than a month stationed on the USS Ronald Reagan supercarrier, based in Japan, with a crew of 4,500.
“She made an immediate impression on everyone on board,” according to the letter read at Wednesday’s service by Marilyn Pylant. She wanted to “become part of something big and something significant.”
The more than 200 people who packed the Solomon Temple sanctuary Wednesday praised the 23-year-old Luckey, a 2011 graduate of Pittsburg High School, as being part of something big — defending her country. She was doing just that when she died Oct. 10 on the Ronald Reagan as it traveled the Philippine Sea. Cmdr. Bill Clinton of the Navy’s U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs said Tuesday that the cause of her death isn’t known and that results of an autopsy aren’t expected back for a few weeks.
Family members have said Luckey told them she was sick in the week before she died. Clinton would not comment Tuesday on the medical care Luckey was receiving on the ship.
And for significance, Luckey not only proved her mettle with the Navy — she had enlisted in 2013 — but with a multitude of friends and family. In fact, their remembrances told a story of a vivacious, determined, even stubborn young woman who loved hiking, enjoyed her relatively short career as a beautician and took particular pleasure in “helping other people find themselves,” as her mother Annette Luckey told this newspaper earlier this week.
“Sister Danyelle had a dream: to make people’s lives better,” said the Rev. David Manley of Stewart Memorial CME Church in Pittsburg. He urged those at Wednesday’s service to “pick up where she left off.” He and others at Wednesday’s service also reminded that Danyelle Luckey was with God now, and that they would see her again one day soon.
It was all part of an upbeat, at times boisterous, service, with plenty of organ music and full-gospel testifying. There was ample time given to lifting up Danyelle Luckey’s parents, Derrick and Annette, praying for them, other family members and friends. There also were somber moments, including near the end, when several uniformed Navy members from the San Francisco recruiting office filed past the open casket, saluting Luckey one by one. A long procession then went from the Pittsburg church early Wednesday afternoon to Memory Gardens Cemetery in North Concord for a full military burial.
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