On Jan. 7, Lacey Lu Pomaibo, 14, passed away after her long battle against leukemia.
Lacey was a freshman at Southmoreland for just a few days. But in that short time, she made an impact on the school community.
Mr. John Saunders was Lacey’s English teacher for her two days in school, and in those two days, this a 14-year-old girl found courage within herself most adults cannot even begin to fathom. Mr. Saunders was one person who recognized this courage.
“It wasn’t awkward after seeing the little smile on her face, and I was prepared for the situation,” Mr. Saunders said. “It was tough because my first thought was that the girl would be here two or three days a week. I treated her how I felt was appropriate for someone with her condition, but I didn’t realize how severe her illness was at the time.”
Several years ago, Lacey was diagnosed with leukemia. Earlier this year, her only wish was to come to school and see what it’s like to be a “normal” high school student.
Jason Bandemer, physical education teacher at the elementary school, was the faculty member who informed the high school of Lacey’s condition and her efforts in showing up to experience a regular day of school and also to see her friends.
Thanks to Mr. Bandemer, Lacey was well known in the Southmoreland community through a comprehensive fundraising effort, and after emailing other schools in the district, operations went immediately into effect.
High school art teacher Mrs. Elizabeth Goodman and her students created a mass project for Lacey.
Each student traced his or her handprint and wrote a message or decorated one for Lacey, then the hands were glued onto a canvas and given to her and her family. (Please see images below)
“There’s something to be said for her desire to be here,” said Mr. Saunders. “She came with a message to show she wanted to be here. For someone in a situation as grave as her’s is difficult, yet she did it regardless.”
Leukemia is a disease in which was not only defective to Lacey’s health causing her fatigue, but it horribly malformed her bones, making her legs so sensitive to touch that the pain prevents her from being touched.
With that, not all her blood cells were produced properly, nor functioned as they are supposed to. They basically lose any traits they have of supporting the body against its illness and leaves one vulnerable to this due to these cells rapidly multiplying and leaving no space for proper cells.
“I know that it has been a real struggle for her and her family and that she continues to face an uphill battle,” Mr. Bandemer said. “I’m sure that she would loved to see and hear from students at the high school.”
Lacey came to Southmoreland not only to prove to herself she can live like an average teenage student, but to prove to others what they are capable of; the impact of her intentions alone were enough to inspire many, let alone the fact she attempted and succeeded in those attempts, Mr. Saunders said.
“We all wanted to help her reach her goal of coming to school,” school nurse Mrs. Linda Yonkey said. “And we did.”
Mrs. Yonkey added that “I think it affects the students, when you become older and you are wiser, and understand that a little girl with that look in here eye could be so courageous, you’d like to believe it’s powerful enough to affect the students, too.”
You hope they not only appreciate school, but an individual who is struggling with issues that hardly any of us could understand,” Mr. Saunders said. “There are many people who come in and out of this school; whether they make it through or not, in some way, they are not forgotten.”
Lacey was born April 12, 2002, in Greensburg, a daughter of Roy Beers and Brandalyn Pomaibo-Beers. She attended First United Methodist Church of Greensburg. Lacey loved music, reading and art. She was preceded in death by her maternal grandmother, Shelly Pomaibo, and several other family members. In addition to her parents, she is survived by three sisters, Brianna, Serenity and Rory; and her maternal great-grandmother, Donna Paulisick, of Yukon. Friends were received at the BEATTY-RICH FUNERAL HOME INC., Route 136, Madison.
Mr. Saunders said for the students who knew Lacey, she will always be remembered for her courage.
“This girl is not someone who will be forgotten,” Mr. Saunders said. “I hope that there never comes a time that when I look into the corner of my classroom that I don’t see her sitting in that wheelchair. So long as I live.”