OPINION | Ken Pittman: Region Rallies Around Grieving Local Family
"Tomorrow is promised to no one.."
Marcy Cushing did what most of us try to do in our busy adult lives; she found a window of time to visit a dear friend, and enjoy a somewhat rare evening relaxing and laughing before heading back home to her family. Mission accomplished there. She did enjoy herself, and expressed to her friend her love for her and got that "fix" that only a "BFF" can give, and she shared that she was excited to go back and be with her husband. She left New Bedford early on April 17 and headed east on Route 195.
Marcy never made it home.
There was an event of some kind that may never be known, that happened behind the wheel. While drugs and alcohol were ruled out as a cause, accident re-constructionists with C-PAC are at a loss as to why Marcy's vehicle left the road. Her Toyota veered off to the left and into the median, where it struck a tree. In an instant, 38-year-old Marcy Cushing, married mother of two, was gone.
Her husband Ricky Cushing had been her high school sweetheart and went on to marry her several years later. They had two children, ages 17 and 14.
In 2009, Ricky and Marcy knew something was wrong with Ricky's health. He was sluggish, tired and had other mild complaints that would grow into major concerns. He was eventually diagnosed with having Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative disease that progressively weakens and causes loss of muscle tissue. There is no known cure.
Ricky is now fully in need of a wheelchair to ambulate, and his personal care is complicated and comprehensive. Marcy became an RN to increase the family's income, but also to be Ricky's primary care provider. She would even return home for lunch each day to help Ricky, before heading back to work.
Her daughter Madison went to her prom last week. The plans changed a bit, though, because in a perfect world Marcy and Madison planned for a fun day to get Maddie ready before she was picked up. Marcy was so looking forward to seeing her off.
Their son Nate is about to be a freshman, and is about to bear a lot of responsibilities that a grown adult would struggle with. His beloved mom was taken from him in a shocking manner for which one cannot be prepared. His sister is at a time when she is departing for school to prepare for her future. Nate is going to be home with his dad, and so much of the household duties will fall on him, in addition to his role in helping with Ricky's care.
I happen to know the specifics of this because my wife Andrea was introduced to Marcy five years ago by Holly Mallowes, one of Andrea's closest friends, and who was as close to Marcy as her own family. It was Holly who saw her last and who Marcy was so happy to spend time with on that fateful night. They were sisters in every way but the DNA.
Andrea absolutely loved Marcy, talked or texted with her on a near-daily basis. I could see that this circle of friends was going to be around until they were all cute little old ladies....in a perfect world.
Just after sunrise on April 17, as I was preparing to leave for work, I got a text from Holly's husband, Howie. He asked if I could have Andrea call Holly, as there was "an emergency." I woke Andrea and told her. She got out out of bed, not half awake, and called her. Since I received a call very similar to the news Andrea was getting, I knew someone close to her had perished. She was immediately inconsolable.
So that is how the next few days were for Marcy's family, her parents and siblings. And also how it was for Andrea, Holly and and their other lifelong bestie, Doreen.
Marcy Cushing and her sister Missy Studenski-Brundage in January, 2015
We hadn't quite got to the weekend when Andrea and Holly sprung into action. Marcy's family needed a lot of help, and needed it now. Through their tears and with heavy hearts, they set up a time, a day and an event that was going to be a commitment for them to give several hundred hours each, right up to the date of the benefit concert and auction on May 26.
I have never been prouder of Andrea, even after the years of witnessing her selfless actions like I have. This pair of smart, strong and determined women had gone to the crash site, set up a memorial there, visited Ricky and the kids, and designed a game plan for taking on a massive event.
We have six kids. Holly and Howie have seven, and despite the family obligations, as well as the professional ones, these two were on a mission. I soon after learned that the east side (Marion to Plymouth) of this same mission was being handled by Marcy's sister, Missy Studenski Brundage, and Doreen Huffman.
Yes, we the husbands contributed. I used my radio name to initiate some donations, and my band offered to donate a performance if they thought we could be of use. I went right to the man I know could and would help, Fun 107 personality and Operations Manager for both Fun 107 and WBSM, Michael Rock. He originally wanted to help emcee the event, but realized he was already planned to be out of state on the date of the benefit. Mike had expressed to me three words: "Whatever you need." You cannot ask for better bosses than Michael and General Manager Mark Stachowski.
The gals were extremely excited to learn that former FUN radio star Christine Fox graciously agreed to emcee the afternoon with WBSM's Phil Paleologos. Fun 107's Gazelle agreed to donate time to DJ the event, and fellow Fun 107 personality B Mo chipped in, too.
Howie and his partners, Al Peters and Mark Martinho, opened up The Vault at Greasy Luck to host the event. Doreen's husband Marc was helping to organize and run various errands, and Missy's husband Eddie not only did each and every thing Missy had asked him to do, but he also represented the family for the hardest of details after the crash. Ed is a local fireman in Wareham.
Make no mistake about it, though, this was a four-woman show. And few would have the energy and be able to juggle what these women juggled to accomplish this.
For Andrea, she was a fish out of water in terms of asking people to donate. She doesn't like to ask anyone to do anything. But she got past this personal obstacle, because she realized she was asking for Marcy, and understood this was exactly what Marcy would be doing at that moment if fate allowed the reversal.
What transpired over the next few weeks was amazing. Local companies, mom and pop stores to major corporations, were so willing to hear this story and quickly respond with their generosity. The benefit would not just be a concert, but more importantly, would host a silent auction with some really amazing goods and services as the prizes.
People entered The Vault at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 26 and donate $25 at the door. Kids entered for free. Once in, you were in view of a beautiful display of prizes, that included anything from Nantucket trips to sports memorabilia to baskets of wines to carpentry, massage, spa services. It was breathtaking to see how many people that could help, did help.
I went to a couple of organizational meetings and mostly observed the planning. There were more than a few times when Andrea or Holly would come to tears when hearing about the generosity of this person, or that shop. It was very humbling for them.
I think too, though, that this was very therapeutic for the Fantastic Four, for Ricky and the kids to have something to look forward to and for Marcy's parents Doug and Marcia, whose grief is one that I don't ever wish to know.
As a band member who used to work for the door, I know what it is like to stress out about the question, "Will they show up?"
Well they did show up. The online auction items were doing well enough too, but the support from Marcy's friends and family, former co-workers and from strangers who just wanted to help was realized soon after the doors were opened to the public. The girls were owed at least that much. Their plan was perfect, and so was the public outpouring of support.
For example, former New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang had only just heard about the tragedy when he basically stopped in his tracks to reserve some time to duck into The Vault and make a donation to the family. Some guy who drives a truck and listens to my show showed up to give, just because. Some other guy we only know as "Jerry" stopped by the radio station to give $100 toward the cause.
John's Crazy Socks company from New Jersey sent some of his products up here. John, the CEO, has Down Syndrome and a heart as big as Texas. The Jared Coffin House hotel on Nantucket, Hyline, Sisco Brewers and Kitty Murtagh's restaurant all chipped in for a dreamy Nantucket trip. Cuttyhunk Ferry Company, Yesteryear Cycle, Coastal Vineyards and Martignetti Companies donated a sizable wine contribution (special thanks to Ed DeVito). Kevin Childs donated a day of balloon tricks for kids, Lisa Marie donated a day to photograph the event, and Luke Benoit of Audio Solutions donated his day to be the sound tech for the day.
I'm getting into a rabbit hole here, because the list is so much longer, and others equally deserving of being mentioned here. So many more that will be formally thanked soon, too.
There is no guarantee that every community would respond in this way but from Wareham to Fall River, the SouthCoast shined Saturday. During an uncertain future for this little family, they have the answers for a few financial concerns for a while until they figure this all out. And they will.
For my wife, Holly, Missy and Doreen, and the other key contributors, they certainly got a hug and high five from a smiling Marcy's spirit, which will be with them all forever.
"I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." John 10:28
Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @RadioKenPittman. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.