Memorial recalls family’s loss
by Joel Danoy
Feb 01, 2013 | 5585 views | 4 4 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Remembering Mike Ucci
Ken Ucci places a ribbon on the cross for his son Michael in front of West High School on Tuesday, Jan. 29. Michael was killed in a car accident at that spot on Jan. 27, 2007.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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Ken Ucci stood quietly outside West High School on Tuesday, Jan. 29, with his hands clasped against his chest and a focused look in his eyes.

He was only feet from the site of a car crash that killed his son, 17-year-old Michael, on Jan. 27, 2007, when the car in which he was a passenger slammed into the traffic light pole at the main entrance of the high school.

Michael was a junior at the school.

The crash also left Ucci’s daughter, Marie, paralyzed for several months. The driver, Bret Clifton, who was Michael’s best friend, lost both of his legs.

On Tuesday, the site became the new home to a cross that remembers Michael and recognizes the teen driving awareness group that Ucci started in the wake of the tragedy — Get Real Behind the Wheel.

The moment caused him to recall the night after the crash when hundreds of people gathered at the site.

“The sounds, the people, the candles being lit, I mean it’s just imbedded in my memory and as hard as I like to black it out, it just plays again for me,” Ucci said. “But things like this have really helped me through a lot of my grief and knowing that something really positive has happened.”

Ucci said it’s important to use the cross as a focal point for teaching a new generation of teenage drivers about his son’s story.

“It’s a very simple cross, but in itself it’s very elegant and in itself it tells a story,” he said. “We hope that when the young drivers pass by, they see this and it helps them realize the enormous responsibility that driving means.”

Ucci believes parents should spend time with their children and learn about who they are driving and riding with each day.

“I’m just hoping that parents come by and they recognize the awful tragedy that took place that night,” he said. “I also hope that they commit themselves as parents to becoming more involved in their son’s or daughter’s driving experience.”

Ucci was joined Tuesday by Lisa Encarnacion, whose son was killed in a car crash on Thanksgiving in 2002, and Lilia Vazquez, who got involved with Get Real Behind the Wheel because she has four teenagers.

Encarnacion praised Ucci’s efforts to start the teen driving awareness program following the crash. It meets once a month, typically on the third Sunday, at Altamont Raceway, where teen drivers can practice on the track for no cost.

“If you can make a difference with just one family not getting that phone call,” she said, “then it’s worth all the hard work that happens every month on a Sunday.”

Ucci is grateful for all the support he has received since the crash six years ago.

“It was unbelievable and beyond description the support spirituality,” he said. “I never forget what everyone did for my family.”

• Contact Joel Danoy at 830-4229 or

Comments-icon Post a Comment
February 01, 2013
His father has found a way to channel his grief. Many people lives changed that horrible day.
February 01, 2013
AHHH! I am pulling my hair! Don't think I lost my mind with all of the faults in my last comment. It should start off 'You're welcome" and tteens should have ONE t. I not that lame. Stupid keyboard.
February 01, 2013
It’s really heartwarming to see members of our community such as Mr. Ucci and Lori Martin taking their tragedies and educating others to help avoid the pain that they have felt.

They deserve our thanks and prayers.

February 01, 2013
You welcome doors17. Sometimes, it seems as if tteens with this driving knowledge should start educating the adult drivers.

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