By Dan Coughlin
Rob Lucas was a superstar in two worlds.
In almost a decade as an editor at Gray & Company, Publishers he refined and polished the writing of Cleveland's most prolific authors.
"Rob was the editor on several of my books," said Neil Zurcher of "One Tank Trip" fame. "He was so precise. His editing skills were responsible in many ways for the success of the books. He demanded accuracy, and his command of the English language made me realize how badly I used my native tongue. Rob was a Renaissance Man."
His true calling, however, was cinema, where he wrote, directed, edited and produced several films, including award-winning documentaries. He had an eye for a story.
"His passion was film," Zurcher continued. "His documentary on Stella Walsh was recognized all over the world with awards and was translated into several languages. It was shown at 40 film festivals all over the world, including Cannes, where he walked the red carpet. But I shall always remember Rob for his courage. When he discovered he had cancer he turned that great mind of his into a weapon and fought it like no one before. I shall remember Rob as a warrior. A man who did not give up, who faced his battle in a bright red muscle car and wearing a slick pair of shades. That is how I want to remember Rob Lucas."
Rob was only 41 years old, still approaching the peak of his career, when he died July 2 of cancer, the disease he fought for seven painful years.
He was born in Akron and as a child moved with his family to Memphis. Rob enjoyed many successes during his early years including becoming an Eagle Scout at the age of 14. It was as a student at St. Benedict High School in Memphis that he began his media career. He mastered a CD featuring a compilation of his friends' bands named Chi Energy. The CD was actually sold in record stores.
Upon graduating from high school, Rob returned to his native Akron to attend college at the University of Akron.
Rob earned bachelor and master’s degrees in communications from the University of Akron, where he met his wife, Sara, while working on the school newspaper. He was editor of the Arts and Entertainment section of the Buchtelite and Sara was a copy editor. Rob also taught media production courses at the University of Akron.
He is credited for starting the first Akron independent film festival in 2002. And in 2014, along with colleagues, he helped establish the Nightlight Cinema, Akron’s first and only theater featuring independent films.
In 2015 Rob joined Case Western Reserve University as managing editor of a medical journal Pathogens and Immunity, which focuses on current reports about infectious diseases. He was largely responsible for the journal's recent accreditation by Pub Med Central (and its international component SCOPUS), which has an exceedingly stringent and lengthy application process. Rob also became a member of the World Association of Medical Editors.
Since the onset of the global pandemic in March, Rob worked tirelessly to publish articles in the journal revealing the latest research on Covid-19—despite the physical agony and mental stress of his own surgeries, even working from his hospital bed in his final days.
Michael Lederman, the journal’s editor-in-chief and the Scott R. Inkley Professor of Medicine (and Rob’s supervisor), described Rob as “bright, creative and imaginative. As Lucas worked to establish the journal, those qualities were evident”.
Rob had said on many occasions that his goal in life was to ‘make a difference’. Dr. Lederman has said that “Rob’s legacy was the journal.” This was Rob’s opportunity to “make a difference”. For more, see: https://thedaily.case.edu/staff-member-rob-lucas-passes-away/
Because of the move to Case Western Reserve and spending an increasing amount of time at the Cleveland Clinic, Rob and his wife, Sara, moved from Akron to the town of Seven Hills south of Cleveland. Sara continues to work as a CPA in Akron.
Sara recalled the night they became engaged in 2002.
"It was about a year after we met. Rob took me to a taping of the Big Chuck and Little John show at Channel 8. I am originally from northeastern Ohio and grew up watching them on TV so it was a big deal. I was so impressed he was able to get us in. Big Chuck asked a movie trivia question and Rob whispered the answer to me. I won a copy of Gray & Company's Cleveland Cemeteries book. Rob had not even started to work there yet. Later that night as we were driving home we talked about how much we enjoyed the same quirky things, and we decided we should get married."
Despite his painful battle with cancer throughout the last seven years, Rob made time to give back to his community. Once a week he spent an evening at the Haven of Rest men’s homeless shelter in Akron where he helped clean housing quarters and befriended many of the residents. He also gave his time to Seeds of Literacy, an organization offering free literacy programs to adults in the Cleveland area. Prior to that he volunteered for many years caring for cats at an animal shelter in Parma, Ohio.
When Rob got sick he made a bucket list. He checked off a few of them. He wrote a movie that was accepted at Cannes (Stella Walsh). He got his muscle car (2016 cherry red Dodge Challenger). He watched a movie in Cinerama (Black Panther). He did not throw a live grenade or meet George Lucas
His greatest disappointment, he told friends, was not being able to see his 8-year-old daughter, Grace, grow up.
Rob is survived by his wife Sara and daughter Grace, and parents, Bob and Martha Lucas and sister, Megan Lucas-Chong (Karl) and neice and nephews Lotus, River and Zephyr.
A funeral Mass for Rob Lucas will be held Friday, July 17, at 10 a.m. at St. Bernard Roman Catholic Church located at 44 University Avenue. Burial will be at a later date at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland. A celebration of life will also be held in the future.
Donations in his memory are suggested for The Nightlight Cinema (where he was a founder and Board member), Seeds of Literacy or St. Jude Hospital.
Services in care of The Billow Funeral Homes & Crematory, 85 N. Miller Road, Akron, OH 44333
To plant a tree in memory of Rob Lucas, please click here.