When Megan D’Arcy was 13 years old, she was a frog princess who whispered to her mom, the queen, her fear that she might someday forget her dad. Her dad was a king who had died in a tragic accident, and Megan was still reeling from the shock. As the storybook goes, the queen hugged Megan tightly and reassured her. “Do you remember when the king taught you how to ride a bike?” Of course, Megan the princess replied. “Well you remember year after year how to ride your bike,” the queen advised. “You’ve never forgotten. You will not forget your father as well.”
It’s a simple lesson and the message embedded in the children’s book Be Happy, a story the real-life Megan D’Arcy, now 18 and a senior at Stoney Creek High School, has written to pass on to others. To honor her dad It was New Year’s Eve 2006 when Michael D’Arcy of Rochester died in a plane crash on his way home from a ski trip. He was flying the single-engine plane home from northern Michigan with Megan’s older sister, Katie, and two of her friends. Megan and her mom, Kelly, had stayed home in Rochester to attend a New Year’s Eve party.
The plane crashed two miles from the Romeo airport. In an instant, the D’Arcy family’s lives changed. Katie D’Arcy and her friends survived the crash, though Katie suffered injuries that kept her hospitalized for months. “My mom lived at the hospital in those months after the crash,” Megan said. “After it happened, I immersed myself in my studies. I wanted to be like my father, to honor him. He was an anesthesiologist. He was so smart, he spoke multiple languages and had chess trophies. I wanted to honor him so I focused on studying.” Megan also started a journal of her thoughts, feelings and fears.
That journal would become the basis for the book that was published this fall. ‘No child should lose a parent’ Be Happy was published by Momentum Books of Royal Oak. It was illustrated by Shaughn Gawthrop and designed by Annamaria Sala. Proceeds from the book will benefit Yatooma’s Foundation for the Kids, a Bloomfield Hills-based nonprofit organization that provides support for kids who have lost a parent. Megan credits the organization’s founder, Norman Yatooma, for helping her put her own tragedy into perspective.
Yatooma lost his own father, Manuel Yatooma, in 1993. He was 20 years old and a junior in college at the time, and he recalls in vivid detail the agony and grief he and his younger brothers had felt when they learned that their father had been murdered while trying to stop a carjacking. “He died instantly,” Norman Yatooma writes in a candid story on his foundation’s website, “… and we all wanted to go with him.” Norman Yatooma created the foundation in his father’s name and memory, and he said Megan truly embodies the foundation’s mission. “To lose your father in a plane crash is heartbreaking,” he said. “To use that tragedy as a motivation for your success rather than an excuse for your failure – to use that painfully personal tragedy for the benefit of others – well, that is divinely inspirational. “Megan’s book is a great encouragement to other young princesses who suffer the life-changing sorrow of losing their king and, for my part, Megan’s triumph will forever remain part of my own personal silver lining.” A ‘natural leader’ For Megan, published author is the latest in a list of titles and accomplishments.
In July, Rochester Patch featured D’Arcy as the newest junior ambassador for the Rochester Area Neighborhood House. “She has a sense of poise that makes her a natural leader,” Neighborhood House director Linda Riggs said. She is also involved in student council, National Honor Society, Key Club and varsity tennis. She has applied to several Ivy League schools and is waiting to hear whether she is accepted. True to her own advice in the story, Megan hasn’t forgotten a thing about her dad. “I think about him every day, some days more than others. Sometimes his favorite song will come on the radio and I’ll think about him. “No child should ever have to lose a parent, but I want them to know that even though it’s hard, they should never give up.” Be Happy is available for $14.95 from Momentum Books; you can place an online order here.