Mary Ellen Lackey

Staff Writer
The Shawnee News-Star

Mary Ellen Lackey, 82, of Shawnee, passed away on the morning of April 28, 2020, having lived a very profound and adventurous life. She was one of the rare few that not only dreamed of an interesting life… she lived out loud and squeezed all the juice that life had to offer until the very end.

Mary Ellen’s journey began in 1937, born in Washington D.C. to Hamilton and Alice Sweeney, and was the oldest of five children.

After high school, she graduated from St. Agnes Nursing School in Baltimore, Maryland, as a RN and worked as a nurse for years.

She was married to entrepreneur Bill Lackey of Kimbell, West Virginia, and they had three sons. The family moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, where she raised her boys while her husband, the original VP of Sales for Federal Express was one of the first three employees. After 25 years of marriage, her husband was killed in a Delta plane crash in Dallas in 1985. She then took over Lackey Oil & Gas Drilling and Development Company as the CEO, that has been operating in Shawnee since the early '80s with success. Mary Ellen also graduated in her early 40s, Summa Cum Laude, from University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a master’s degree in psychiatric social work. During her time as a therapist she found a deep spiritual practice as a Buddhist and dove deep into spiritual exploration throughout the rest of her life. She moved to Shawnee from Little Rock in the '90s to be close to two of her sons and grandchildren and was an avid reader, with a keen intellect, strong political opinion and had a huge heart.

Some of her adventures include working side-by-side with Mother Teresa in her leper colony in India. Personal time with His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet. She also lived for several years in a Buddhist Ashram on retreat. Bill Clinton was a friend of the Lackey’s and spent time at their house, on several occasions, when he was the Governor of Arkansas. One of her homes was featured on the cover of “Southern Living” Magazine. In her later years, she was active member of the fine arts community in Shawnee, was politically active in being a part of demonstrations and protests in and around OKC and more.

Her legacy is in her sons - Skip Lackey of Boulder, Colorado, Scott Lackey and Shawn Lackey of Shawnee; step-son, Larry Lackey of Charleston West Virginia. We also want to acknowledge her step-son Michael Lackey from Myrtle Beach South Carolina, who passed away several years ago. Her sister and brother-in-law Rita and Bob Daniel of Rehoboth, Delaware. And her brothers Terry Sweeney of Columbia, Maryland, Kevin Sweeney of Maryland and Timothy Sweeney of Washington, D.C. (deceased). Lots of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews (and other beautiful souls from a number of blended families, too many to mention) and a lot of longtime friends that have been like family that will greatly miss her spirit, intellect and passion for knowledge and her heart.

Because of the current crisis, the family will have a celebration of her amazing life in both Shawnee and Little Rock, where her ashes will be placed next to her late husband. This will take place sometime this summer when “social distancing” is not an issue. The family wants to be able to come together and hug and lift a glass to commemorate the final destination of her journey.

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