Close to 700 people poured into the Tucson Jewish Community Center on April 22 to take part in a memorial service for 18-year-old Kelsey Taylor Luria, who died April 18, 2015 after battling acute myeloid leukemia for almost six months.
Rabbi Stephanie Aaron, who spoke at the memorial, said that at 15, Kelsey decided she wanted to celebrate becoming a bat mitzvah, which she hadn’t done at 13. She also wanted to become part of Congregation Chaverim’s confirmation class. And she wanted to travel to Poland and Israel on the March of the Living, which she did last spring, along with Aaron and 11 other Tucson teens.
“Kelsey determined what she needed to do and she did it with her whole heart,” said Aaron.
Aaron spoke of Kelsey’s courage in the face of her illness, recalling that in Poland, Kelsey had told the story of one of her heroes, a slave laborer at Auschwitz who was executed for plotting to blow up the crematoria and went to her death shouting “Chazak v’ematz” (be strong and brave).
Eve Liebeskind, a fellow Catalina Foothills High School student and friend from the March of the Living trip, says that “no matter what the situation was or how hard it was, Kelsey was always fun and optimistic about it — that’s from the March of the Living and also, obviously, throughout her battle with cancer.”
Kelsey’s parents, Maya and Michael Luria, told the AJP, “As devastated and deeply saddened as we are by Kelsey’s loss, we are so proud of how she handled these last five months with tremendous courage, strength and grace. Her brilliant smile, kindness and even her sass will be missed by all whom she touched.”
Along with her parents, survivors include her brother, Max Luria, and grandparents, Linda and Joel Tarantal and Don Luria and Donna Nordin, all of Tucson, and Pauline and Doug Merritt of Brisbane, Australia.
In honor of Kelsey and her ambition to change the world for other children afflicted with pediatric cancer, her family is starting the BaldBeautiesProject.org. The project supports cancer research and kits for the newly diagnosed along with opportunities for patients to have a professional photo shoot, as Kelsey did after treatment caused her to lose her hair. Arrangements were made by Evergreen Mortuary.