Joyful. Happy. Smiling.
These are just a few of the many words Elena Lucore is remembered as by her family, friends and loved ones.
A freshman at the University of Massachusetts, Lucore, 19, died the evening of Feb. 22, 2022 after being hit by a car when crossing Massachusetts Avenue.
“Elena will best be remembered for her ever-smiling face and eyes and infectious laugh that allowed everyone to share in the great joy that was deep within her,” her obituary reads.
Lucore was born in Malacatán, Guatemala, and was brought home to her family in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi when she was five months old. Lucore is survived by her parents, Peter and Laura Lucore, her three older brothers, Andrew (Kasey), James and Christopher, and her dog, Zeus.
Lucore left her home in Bay St. Louis, Miss. to begin her collegiate studies as an undeclared major in the Isenberg School of Management. Although she had been at UMass for six months, she had already left a positive impact on the UMass community and student body.
“She knew nobody up there, but she was the type of person that can make friends very easily and just kind of flow from group to group, [she] didn’t have any cliques that she belonged to or anything like that,” her father explained. “I think she made people feel good.”
Lucore embraced many opportunities to become involved at the University, joining Isenberg Women in Business and becoming a member of Iota Gamma Upsilon.
According to her father, Lucore originally planned on attending college near her hometown in southern Mississippi.
“It was a big, big step outside of her comfort zone to go up there, 1,500 miles away,” her father said. “All her friends were going to local schools or Ole Miss or something like that, which she was planning on doing. And then when she got accepted to UMass, Laura and Elena were able to go up and visit.”
“[Because of] that visit she really fell in love with UMass,” her mother continued. “It was a big step to go all the way up there, she was outside of her comfort zone. But she went up there and she was able to make friends easily.”
Elena’s roommate, who chose to remain anonymous, remembers reaching out to Elena online to be roommates for their freshman year.
“She just seemed really nice. We FaceTimed a couple of times, and she said she never had any roommate plans and then we just both decided that we would be roommates together and that was really great,” Lucore’s roommate said. “Once we moved in, I think we became much closer too. I could just tell right off the bat that she was super friendly, and I just knew that I would get along with her.”
“The living situation was very comfortable, like the room was just like our own,” her roommate continued. “We told each other about how our days were with classes and everything, and it was just really great to be able to know her and especially to live with her too and seeing her every day.”
Lucore was described by her roommate as having an optimistic outlook on life, exuding positivity wherever she went.
“I remember Elena as a very kind of friendly person – happy-go-lucky I think is a good way to put it. She was always just willing to do whatever. If I asked her, ‘Hey, do you want to get food right now?’ She’d be like, ‘Sure, let me just like put on a sweater!’ She was kind of carefree but in a really good way. She did what she wanted to do. I never really saw her upset at all… she always was in a good mood and had like a happy face and everything.”
Lucore’s roommate fondly recalls memories of going shopping off campus together, as well as going to a Lunar New Year celebration at the dining halls and several UMass hockey games.
Her roommate echoed sentiments of Lucore’s benevolent disposition, remembering how upon returning to campus after winter break, she offered to get dinner with Elena even though she, herself, had already eaten. Sometime after, Elena returned the favor without hesitation: “Fast forward like at some point I didn’t have dinner plans. [Elena] had just come back from dinner, but she was like, ‘I’ll go with you to the dining hall!’ I feel like that was really special, and that just shows the kind of person she was.”
Lucore’s mother shared a similar story from Elena’s childhood in which she comforted a fellow preschool student on the first day of school after noticing the student was nervous.
“Elena just walked right up to her and said, ‘Hi, I’m Elena, if you want to play we’ll go in this room, if you want to dress up we’ll go in that room, and if you want to build we’ll go in there. What do you want to do?’ She just took her right away by the hand and then they were friends from that day until her last day. And that was Elena’s personality.”
Sophia Stilla, a first-year student on the exploratory track for social and behavioral sciences, said that she will always remember Lucore for her positive energy and amicable personality.
“Elena was someone you never saw without a smile on her face. Even when talking about falling in the mud on the way to class or getting locked out of her room in nothing but a towel after a shower, she would tell the story behind a smile and laugh,” Stilla said. “Elena was the type of person to try to make friends out of anyone, always inviting people to go eat with her or to work on homework together, making conversation in class with whoever was next to her. She would often talk to me about her home and family, and her love for them was evident.”
Stilla continued, “One night when I got in trouble for bringing my dog into our dorm, Elena and I sat on the floor and played with her for what felt like hours to try to prevent her from barking, scheming a whole plan of what we would do if the RA came back. Talking to Elena as I danced around the hallway or seeing her wave to me when I walked into class is never something I will not miss. I would do so much to go back and have dinner with her even just one more time. We have to stop taking people for granted.”
Juliana Gorham, a junior building and construction technology major, said Lucore was one of her close friends and “one of the few people I clicked with on campus.”
“I remember her through the conversations we would have while getting lunch at Frank or tucked away studying in The Design Building,” Gorham said. “She was really funny and one of the kindest people I knew.”
While Gorham has many fond memories of her friendship with Lucore, her favorite is the day they met.
“My friend and I were out one night in the fall and it started to downpour,” Gorham explained. “We were really far from my dorm and saw some girls huddled under the overhang of a building. To avoid freezing, we went to stand with them until the storm passed. After a few minutes of talking, we decided to go with them in an Uber across campus. It wasn’t a big car so Elena being the smallest, ended up lying across us in the backseat. It was pretty funny and we were all just vibing to the music the driver had on.”
Lucore’s kind and selfless character is evident in the stories told about her not only by her family and friends, but also by students who barely knew her but were still impacted by her generosity. Following Lucore’s passing, her family began receiving a flood of letters and messages from UMass students and community members about stories and memories of Lucore and the impact she had on their lives.
“After she died, so many people were reaching out to me from UMass,” Lucore’s mother said. “And there were letters like, ‘I was nervous on my first day of [macroeconomics] and Elena said, ‘Come sit with me!’ and then we sat together every day and got lunch.’ So there are quite a few stories like that from students. [Elena] kind of had that knack to see when someone felt nervous and she opened up to them, and that makes me happy that she still was that kind of person.”
“So many people said things about her life and her happiness, just a lot of kind words to describe her. And that is a comfort to me absolutely,” her mother added.
Julie Cranford, one of Lucore’s high school teachers and close family friends shared, “I love how everyone seems to have the same memories of Elena at [Our Lady Academy Catholic High School]. They remember her always smiling and laughing and making everyone she encountered at school happy. The word used to describe her most often was joyful! – and yes, a perfect description.”
“Elena was such a beautiful young lady with so much love in her heart. She always had a smile on her face and a laughter that was so contagious. She had a heart of gold and a soul so sweet and thoughtful,” Missy Escher, another one of Lucore’s high school teachers, said.
“There are no words to express the true meaning of joy, laughter, and love this sweet girl brought to our home,” Jane Anderson, the mother of Lucore’s best friend, Faith Anderson, said.
Lucore’s cousin, Lisa Wilkinson, described her as “[emanating] joy, light and laughter.”
“Our whole community has voiced their sadness over the loss of such a life force that throws her head back to laugh,” Jeff Lacoste, one of the Lucores’ family friends, added.
Lucore’s parents hope to have discussions with University administration sometime in the near future regarding measures that can be taken to improve pedestrian safety on campus.
“My concern is for the students, especially that knew Elena, like her roommates and friends,” Lucore’s father said. “I’m concerned about the driver, I’m concerned about her friend that was walking [with her]. I do worry about those people – that keeps you up at night.”
He continued, “We know it’s still kind of early and we’re just still trying to wrap our heads around everything, and we’re trying to take care of what we can in the immediate time, but [in] the future we’d like to have a discussion or find out more about how to advocate for [increased safety measures] because we know it is a problem. I can’t imagine that something like this hasn’t happened before at some point … maybe not to the extent of fatality, but when you have that much foot traffic in the same area, you know, it’s bound to have something happen.”
Lucore’s friends are also concerned about the current state of driver and pedestrian safety at UMass, and is hopeful that the University will take action to mitigate potential risks for students walking and driving on campus.
“I really want UMass to do more to make campus safe for pedestrians,” Gorham said. “Less than a month after Elena died, another student was hit on the same road. I understand that a combination of factors contributed to both situations and they were vastly different circumstances, but there are things that UMass could do to lessen the risk.”
Gorham added, “I also think that the student that hit Elena was unfairly ridiculed by some. No one gets in their car with the intention of taking another’s life and I’m sure he’s really suffering. I miss her so much, but he doesn’t deserve to be denounced over a mistake, especially when he hasn’t been found to do anything negligent.”
A memorial vigil was held for Lucore on Feb. 24, 2022, and members of the campus community came together to remember Lucore and show support for her family. Lucore’s parents were moved by the support offered to them by the student community, as numerous students spoke with them and shared thoughtful memories and sympathies during their visit to campus to attend the vigil.
“I want the community to remember her as someone who was really happy to be here at UMass,” Lucore’s roommate said. “She was [undeclared] in Isenberg, and I remember she was excited to figure out what she wanted to do. I want [the UMass community] to remember her as someone who was happy, happy-go-lucky, someone who was very energetic, and was just great to be around. I don’t know any person who wouldn’t like her.”
“I want people to remember her for seeking out adventures,” Gorham said. “She loved to see and do new things, and was excited to be in college. She really enjoyed meeting new people… I admired her candor and really liked that we could speak our minds freely with each other. But above all else, I want her to be remembered for the way she treated others. She was compassionate and cared about helping those that were in need.”
McKenna Premus can be reached by email at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @mckenna_premus.