"She was not only a co-worker but a friend to all." Diane Martin
They climbed the Terminal Tower in Cleveland; at one time, the tallest building west of New York City for 40 years.
They climbed in memory of Tracey Andersen Buccilli, a loved family member and West Geauga Schools administrative assistant, who passed away from lung cancer Nov. 9, 2013.
Dubbed the “Anderson Fight Team,” they raised $4,593 for the American Lung Association March 1 as a result of their 804-step, 42-floor venture to the top.
Tracey’s sister, Roberta, also passed away from lung cancer seven years ago at age 56.
The event was part of the association’s annual “Fight for Air Climb” fundraiser, according to the association’s website.
Multiple co-workers, friends and relatives reflected on how Tracey impacted their lives recently.
A Wedding, a Diagnosis and Memories
Tracey, a Mentor resident, served as one of the district’s central office administrative assistants for many years, said her daughter, Angelina.
“We were at a wedding on July 20 this past year for my cousin and we were singing, dancing, laughing as if nothing was wrong. My mom was her same, energetic self,” Angelina said.
On Aug. 1, only a week later, her mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. A scant three months and eight days later, Tracey passed away.
Angelina wanted to do something in honor of her mother while she was battling her cancer.
She had seen the ALA was sponsoring the “Fight for Air Climb” at the Terminal Tower, which pays tribute to those suffering from any sort of lung disease, such as cancer, asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
“So I decided to do it and contacted my family members,” she said, adding other family members had passed away from cancer or cancer-related issues.
One of Tracey’s relatives, Gayle Tuttle, said Tracey was a positive person.
“I’ll never forget her smile,” said Tuttle, who co-owns Passion for Fashion in Chester Township.
“I was so happy one day in June last year she popped into my store. There was that smile,”?she recalled fondly. “She commented that she had been meaning to stop sooner. I told her I understand we are all so busy with work and family. (I am) so glad she did and we had a wonderful visit. That was my last time with her and I am so grateful for it.”
During the fundraiser, all 14 members of the team needed to raise $100 each in order to participate. With the help of social media, they were able to get the word out and finish as a top-four fundraising team the day of the event.
“The West Geauga Education Association made a wonderful donation towards the cause and her family is very thankful,” Angelina added.
The climb went well for the team, which took between seven and 16 minutes to trek up 42 floors.
“In the category we participated in, you climb at your own pace and it’s fun,” Angelina said, adding there was a second class of people that walked competitively for time.
“It’s a small stairwell, an old-school staircase and dusty,”?she said.
When the walkers got to the top, the impact of the dust could be felt in their chest. The walk was a challenge, she added.
“It was a very special experience and we want to do it again next year,” Angelina said. “We want to raise more money and do it every year in honor of my mom and other family members who suffered from lung diseases.
“Lung cancer is so under the radar,” she added. “You don’t even know you have it until, typically, it’s too late. This event brings us together as a family and that’s what my mom loved to see.”
‘She Kept Everyone Organized’
A little dynamo — that’s how former longtime school board member Sally Gillmore remembered Tracey when she met her about a decade and a half ago.
“When you wanted something done right, you asked her,” Gillmore said.
Gillmore, who served as school board president for a four-year stint, said she thinks about Tracey often.
“I think about her every time there’s a board agenda to come out and policy work is going on,” Gillmore said. “She always kept all of that straight. She kept everyone organized.”
High School secretary Joyce Laurita, another longtime Wolverine, said she worked with Tracey, who was high school secretary for five years before going to the central office.
“She had a contagious laugh and always found the good in everyone,” Laurita said. “Tracey was a very caring person and fun to be around. Whenever Tracey called the high school office from the board office, she would always begin her conversation and ask me, ‘Whatcha doin?’”
She added, “I miss her walking down the hall at the board office and greeting anyone and everyone with such a great spirit.”
Former West Geauga Schools Treasurer Michele Tullai said Tracey had worked 17 years for the school district. At the Nov. 13 school board meeting, the five-member school board held a moment of silence for Tracey.
West Geauga Schools board office administrative assistant Diane Martin had a close perspective on the situation.
“She was not only a co-worker but a friend to all,” Martin said, adding the central office staff depended on Tracey.
Martin called Tracey a woman of “great care and sensitivity” and said she had a way of making everyone feel valued.
In the staff lunchroom, a monkey hangs with a huge smile. Tracey had a keen sense of humor and loved monkeys, Martin added.
She said the staff hung it as a reminder to have a sense of humor even when things get tough.
“When we look at it, we think of Tracey and her beautiful smile and we share memories of her. As we grieve, we memorialize her and she motivates us to do well,” she said.
A few weeks ago, Martin commented to Superintendent Geoff Palmer that she could use advice from Tracey at that moment.
“The superintendent told me, ‘She sure had a way about her. Sometimes it was just that look she would give that would help us answer our own question and she could have been so many things in life, like a psychologist,’” Martin said. “Family was important to her and she often shared stories, so we felt we knew them all.”
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