In 1999, the Lucien family was devastated by the loss of a son who was killed in an automobile accident.
Duane Lucien loved life, and his death was not only untimely but it deeply saddened many people in the Slatington community and many friends and peers at Bloomsburg University, where Duane was a freshman.
"Duane attended only one year at Bloomsburg, but after his death, three busloads of students attended the funeral," said Jeff Lucien, Duane's father.
It was this outpouring of love and grief from everyone who knew Duane that guided the Lucien's to start a scholarship foundation in their son's name.
"He was an awesome kid," Jeff Lucien said, "(he) was friends with everyone. When he met someone for the first time he never forgot who they were."
The fact that four-hundred people attended the first Duane J. Lucien Benefit Festival is testament to how many lives Duane touched.
He was an outstanding athlete and a role model for others. He served as a mentor, a lifeguard at the Northern Lehigh Pool and the Junior Prom King. He was an inspiration to anyone who had the pleasure of knowing him.
By offering an annual scholarship to students at Duane's alma mater, Northern Lehigh High School, his memory is kept alive and the Lucien's are able to help students in the community attain their educational goals. It's a surprise award that is presented at Northern Lehigh's senior awards' night and, to date, there have been 13 scholarships awarded in Duane's name to the student who best represents Duane's attributes.
The first scholarship was funded, in part, with donations made to the Lucien family in lieu of flowers following his death. The remaining money was raised with the help of Emerald Dragon Karate School where Duane, a second degree Black Belt, taught.
When one of Duane's friends suggested a festival to remember and honor Duane's memory, the Lucien's thought that was a great idea that would also offer an opportunity to continue awarding scholarships. The first festival was held in 2009.
To date, 13 scholarships have been awarded. The scholarships are limited to Northern Lehigh students. However, as the foundation grows the Lucien's hope to extend the awards to other school districts.
Michelle Lucien said that although organizing and holding the festival is sometimes a bittersweet experience for her and her husband, Jeff, it's also a day to revisit with Duane's friends. Many who return year after year and share memories.
Friends of Duane's, such as Cory Rabenold, who races at Pocono Raceway, is planning to bring his car, and Duane's former juggling partner, Alex Cowalchyk will also be there, performing. More than 50 baskets have been donated for the Chinese Auction and local bands, such as Good Friday and Voice of Reason will be playing.
The Benefit Festival will be held on May 21 from noon to 8 p.m. at the Covered Bridge along the Slate Heritage Trail in Slatington. Details can be found on facebook.com/DLucienFoundation.