Zachary McKee, a 27-year-old Ossian resident, was about to graduate from IPFW in May with a political science degree and begin working at the Indiana Statehouse. Four years as a distinguished U.S. Marine was on his resume.
Then he tragically died in an unusual accident near Chicago on Sunday.
McKee stepped onto the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) tracks near a south Evanston station to urinate, Evanston Police Department spokesman Cmdr. Jay Parrott told Marshal Cohen of the Daily Northwestern, the Northwestern University student newspaper. He stumbled and as he attempted to get up, his right arm made contact with the electrically-charged third rail.
“The loss of any student is hard to take,” George McClellan, IPFW vice chancellor for student affairs, told Cohen. “But the loss of a student who had so much promise, was so close to graduation and who has already made important contributions to our campus community is particularly hard.”
According to Cohen's story, McClellan said McKee was a “popular” student leader who was actively involved on campus as a member in the judicial branch of the Student Government Association. He also had an internship at one of the field offices of U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar.
“He was really well-respected in his academic department,” McClellan said. “I knew Zack as a member of our judicial board, but I also knew him because I hear from faculty members about students that they think highly of.”
McKee had gone to Chicago to see a Cubs game and celebrate the birthday of his brother-in-law. Zach's brother, Lucas, 25, and the brother-in -law were traveling on the CTA, missed their stop and got off at Evanston's South Boulevard station take a return train.
Evanston police say surveillance video shows that around 11:10 p.m., McKee apparently was trying to climb down to the tracks and fell.
"He stumbled, or maybe he was going to sit down on the plateform, but he fell off onto the tracks," Lucas McKee told Jonathon Bullington for a story in the Chicago Tribune. After the jolt, Lucas McKee said, he performed CPR on his brother, but to no avail.
After studying two years at IPFW, Zach spent four years in the Marines, serving in Iraq an Afghanistan, then returned to IPFW.
Members of the family acknowledged that there had been drinking during the outing, according to Bullington's story, but his father, Mark, noted that his son demonstrated responsibility by taking public transportation.
"For the first time in his life, he finally let his hair down for a few days, and he died from it," his father said.
"He was so well-liked. We're heartbroken. I miss him to death."
Zach's mother, Julie Hammond McKee, is a former Decatur resident. His grandmother, Vera Hammond, resides in Decatur.
"He was indeed an outstanding young man," Wells County Republican Party Chairman Ralph Garcia told the Tribune writer. "He would have been able to integrate all of his talents to make one heck of a politician if he wanted to or an attorney if he wanted," Garcia said. "I wish we had more kids like Zach — those who have a purpose in life, aspirations and patriotism."
Funeral services for Zachary McKee will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Zion Lutheran Church in Decatur, with visitation two hours prior. Visitors also may call until 8 tonight at Elzey-Patterson-Rodak Funeral Home, 120 West Mill St., Ossian.
Burial will take place at Decatur Cemetery.
Preferred memorials are to the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, memo: Zachary W. McKee.
Online condolences may be made at www.elzey-patterson-rodak.com .