THE REV. James E. Luckey had a way of making the people in his life feel special, his family said.
"Every day after he came home from work, he would dance with me in the living room. We would waltz," said his daughter Sheri Luckey, sharing memories from when she was a young girl. "We didn't even have music. He would kind of hum this melody.
"I always looked forward to him coming home."
Rev. Luckey started out his career at Pennsylvania Hospital as a security officer, but he continued his education and became a family counselor and then the hospital's chaplain.
Rev. Luckey, 67, died of a stroke on Wednesday, Jan. 4, six days before what would have been his 68th birthday, at his home in Wyncote, Montgomery County, family members said.
Rev. Luckey was born in Philadelphia on Jan. 10, 1949, the youngest of four children for Marie James and Eugene Luckey. He grew up in West Philadelphia and after graduating from West Philadelphia High School, he joined the United States Marine Corps.
He received an honorable discharge from the Marines and returned to Philadelphia to focus on his education.
While working as a security officer, he went back to college to earn a bachelor's degree in psychology from La Salle University. He then obtained a Master of Divinity degree at the Lutheran Theological Seminary and also earned a special certificate in Black Church Studies from the seminary's Urban Theological Institute.
All the while, Rev. Luckey moved up at Pennsylvania Hospital. He left his security officer job to become a family counselor at Hall Mercer, a division of the hospital. Then he became the hospital chaplain, his family said.
While working at the hospital, a coworker introduced Rev. Luckey to his future wife, Janet, and they married in 1988. But the two had actually first met when they were teenagers.
Janet Luckey said that in the mid-1960s, there wasn't much for young people to do on Sundays after church. So teenagers formed social clubs; "We would have little socials in the afternoon in people's homes," she said.
One Sunday, her club members had a gathering with Rev. Luckey's social club. She said the president of the boys' club, Rev. Luckey, asked her to dance, but she refused. "I didn't dance," she said. "I was shy and I didn't know how to dance."
When James and Janet met again as adults, they started talking about their high school days, and they remembered that first meeting years ago.
"He just laughed about it," Janet Luckey said.
Janet Luckey said her husband was ordained at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in West Philadelphia and later became a pastor at various congregations with the United Church of Christ and United Methodist Church denominations.
"He loved to tell jokes; he was light-hearted," Janet Luckey said. "He would tell jokes during his sermons. He felt that we didn't need to be sad because we were Christians. He felt that we should enjoy life."
After retiring from the hospital, Rev. Luckey became pastor of John Wesley United Methodist Church in Port Norris, N.J., near Vineland, his wife said. He retired from that church in 2011 and the couple moved back to Wyncote.
In addition to his wife Janet and daughter Sheri, Rev. Luckey is survived by son James Luckey Jr. and daughter Safiya Broadwater; his brother, Gene Luckey Sr.; six grandchildren, including grandson Damani Harper, who was a faithful caregiver; two great-grandchildren; and nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents, sister, two brothers; and a son, Damani Harper Sr., and a grandson, Darien Lyles.
Funeral services are Wednesday, January 11, at 11 a.m. at the New Horizon Baptist Church, 5532 Rising Sun Ave. in Philadelphia, PA, 19120. A viewing will be from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Interment will be at Ivy Hill Cemetery.