Park bench will keep girl’s memory alive in place she loved
By Mike Koury
Drew and Katie LaCroix, as well as local police, City Council members and friends of the family, admire the bench dedicated to Leah LaCroix. The bench’s legs were painted Leah’s favorite color, yellow.
Posted May 17, 2017
BERKLEY — A young family that suffered a heartbreaking tragedy with the passing of their daughter last year received a gift that will let her name live on in her favorite park.
A new bench has been placed in Jaycee Park in memory of Leah LaCroix — the 2-year-old daughter of Berkley residents Drew and Katie LaCroix — who died Dec. 8, 2016, from acute myeloid leukemia.
The idea to place a bench in honor of Leah came from the workers at the General Motors Technical Center, where Leah’s grandfather, Phil LaCroix, works as the manager of the wood shop fabrication department.
“We took up a collection through the shop and decided instead of giving them money … we decided to build this memorial bench,” said one of the wood shop workers, Jeff Edgerly. “We got a group of guys in the shop, quite a few, and we all put our hands in it and built this bench for Leah.”
Edgerly said they wanted to be able to give the family something special in memory of Leah, and they painted the legs of the bench yellow, which was her favorite color.
The workers approached the city about placing the bench in Leah’s favorite park, Jaycee Park, which Parks and Recreation Director Theresa McArleton said the city was happy to help facilitate.
“(The workers) chose a space, we went out and it looked like a great space, and we’re happy to have the bench there,” she said. “(This is) the worst thing that can happen to a parent, so whatever we can do to facilitate that, it’s a small, small thing.”
Recounting the journey that Leah and his son and daughter-in-law went through, Phil LaCroix said Leah was diagnosed with AML at 10 months old. He said Drew and Katie spent roughly five to six months at Beaumont Hospital, where Leah received treatment before she went into remission.
Phil LaCroix said Leah was about 13 months healthy before relapsing last August. They went back to the hospital, trying to set up a bone marrow transplant for Leah, before she took a turn for the worse.
“Before they were able to get her to Ann Arbor, it had taken over,” he said.
And all this happened, Phil LaCroix said, while Katie was pregnant with her and Drew’s second child, Julia, who was born on Sept. 30.
Phil LaCroix said his workers surprised him with their idea of the bench dedication, buying the materials on their own and working on it at a former GM employee’s workshop on their own time.
“The story of Leah just got everybody’s emotions running,” Phil LaCroix said. “They were all so happy when she was in remission and so heartbroken as they followed the story that they felt like they wanted to do something special.”
Though he doesn’t know how he’ll ever thank them, the work done by the guys in the workshop is something for which Phil LaCroix will be forever grateful.
“I get so emotional when I talk about Leah, so it’s very hard for me to put into words what I’m feeling, but I cannot believe the amount of gratitude I have for them,” he said. “I mean, we have a working relationship where they work at a shop that I used to work with them on the floor. So I know them well. Now I happen to be a manager of them, but we’re still that close where they got caught up that much in Leah’s story. And it’s not just the wood shop. It’s everybody in design. Everybody in design that I’m amazingly thankful to them for reaching out like this, because it means so much to my son and daughter-in-law, and they can sit there with little Julia, and Julia will know Leah’s story.”
About the author
Staff Writer Mike Koury covers Berkley, Ferndale, Huntington Woods and Pleasant Ridge along with the Berkely Schools and Ferndale Schools districts for the Woodward Talk. He has worked at C & G Newspapers since October 2015 and attended Michigan State University. He has been described as “a wonderful angel” by his mother and “sleepy” by his editor.
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