Captain Sandra Marie Lucas, retired, age 61, died peacefully in the arms of her husband on the evening of March 29, 2010, at her home in Edgartown.
Long ago, Sandy was determined to leave her mark on this planet before she left it, and she succeeded. From humble beginnings, overcoming the staggering barriers a woman of her era faced in building a career and nurturing a family she loved dearly, this true free spirit was assigned to the Island of Martha’s Vineyard in the spring of 1981 to enforce state and federal hunting, boating, and fishing regulations. That spring began a love affair with the Island that gave Sandy a self strength she held dear to her heart beyond any bounds she could have imagined.
Prior to her assignment to the Island she completed three months of intensive training at the Massachusetts State Police Academy. Subsequent training in fish and game laws enabled her to become not only the Island’s first, but one of the first of three women to hold a position as a law enforcement officer for the Environmental Police in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She simultaneously held the positions of deputy federal officer for the Division of Fish and Wildlife and Marine Fisheries, and was the first female to hold the rank of captain in the Division of Law Enforcement. Such a feat was not an easy accomplishment in a time when Sandy was forbidden to matriculate into the criminal justice program at a state college due to her gender. And, subsequently, enter an occupation to enforce laws in the arenas of hunting and fishing.
Sandy faced continuous and multiple challenges from life that would have caused most people to surrender long ago. It was not in her character to do so. She was never one to go silently into the night. She was always thankful to the colleagues who looked beyond her gender, accepted her for her work ethic and capabilities and assisted, inspired, and mentored her stellar career.
Sandy distinguished herself with numerous awards and was noted for her undying commitment and enthusiasm to the Island, its community, and way of life. Some achievements are noted, but are only snapshots in time of her journey; the substance of that journey is as joyous as it is lamentable. Sandy enjoyed educating a generation of Island youth in safe handling of firearms and boating safety. On one occasion she dove into South Beach to save a dolphin, helped rescue a seal on Wasque, managed oil spill clean-ups, coordinated various agencies in the disposal of ordinance at South Beach, and so much more. She gave without regard to her own safety and sacrificed more than ever will be known.
Captain Sandra Marie Lucas was the first woman to be honored as of Officer of the Year in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She was also awarded a citation for valor for saving the lives of others under dangerous circumstances. Sandy also received letters, notes, and phone calls from women, mothers, and grandmothers she never met, thanking her for fighting and persevering in her profession so that other women, daughters, and granddaughters would be given a greater degree of opportunity to pursue their dreams.
The love for her Island gave Sandy strength beyond measure. However, the realities of her times cost her the ultimate sacrifice in the end. A price her spirit would gladly pay again and again — those who knew her well would agree without question. She had no desire to become a crusader; she just wanted to do her job.
Sandy empowered women by example, not words. It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, influential or not, she treated all fairly, and firmly when warranted. Within her lived treasured values of uncompromising honesty, integrity, and fair play, and the unconditional love she shared with all who cared to relish in it. Her knowledge of the environment and of the laws she enforced gained her the respect and admiration of the people of the Island she loved and protected.
Sandy always fought and always persevered, surviving years of relentless physical pain and emotional trials. Earlier this year Sandy was diagnosed with cancer. During her brief final battle she suffered a catastrophic stroke and, as her end approached, was brought home from the hospital to be cared for by her family, very dear friends, and wonderful Hospice caregivers until she chose her time to pass to a place where all her pains would be no longer.
Sandra Marie (Vidal) Lucas was born in 1948 in Pittsfield to the late Edward and Evelyn Vidal. Her stepfather, Edward Gaylord, played a joyous part in her life as well. Sandy is survived by Gregory Lucas, who is honored to be her best friend and husband for 38 years; two daughters, Debra M. Gaines of Edgartown and Paula J. Card of Acushnet; her brother, Edward “Ronnie” Vidal of Windsor Locks, Conn.; two sisters, Rita Beebe of S. Windsor, Conn. and Nancy Lefebvre of Southwick, Mass.; three cherished grandchildren, Cassaundra, Michaella, and Daniel Gaines; in addition to many fondly thought of nieces and nephews. Sandy also considered her dear friend Deanna Williamson of Edgartown to be a true sister. Sandy’s four-legged and feathered pets throughout the years gave her great joy, especially Cecil, her favorite cat.
In the truest sense Sandy’s story is a journey of someone who relished the life around her like a child at Christmas and deeply touched all who cared to know her. There is a much greater story, untold in these words, to be known of her journey, for those curious enough to inquire.
Her essence left a beautiful treasure on our shores. A celebration of Sandy’s life will be held at the Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club, June 6, from 11 am to 1 pm. You are invited to join in that celebration with memories, stories or just quietly, if you prefer.