Gulfport native Sydney Pucheu, enjoying the start of her professional career in hospitality management near Dallas, died in a traffic crash Monday in Texas while driving home to see her family.
Pucheu, 23, was the daughter of Gulfport Ward 7 Councilwoman Cara Lero Pucheu and businessman Jacques Pucheu. She was coming home to swap vehicles with one of her parents while her vehicle had some front-end work. She planned to get her vehicle back during the Thanksgiving holiday, her parents said.
The couple learned her vehicle had struck the back of a stopped semi on Interstate 20 in Lindale, Texas. Her dog, Bella, a Yorkipoo, was with her and also died in the crash.
“They told us Sydney died instantly,” her mother said.
“That is a relief. We know she is with Jesus now.”
Sydney Pucheu was a 2013 graduate of West Wortham High and had graduated from Ole Miss in May with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management.
She had started a one-year internship at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas, an upscale community, but was hired to be a supervisor within a few weeks, her parents said.
“She was organizing events and making sure people had a good time,” Cara Pucheu said.
“She loved to serve others and to make people happy. That is what she wanted to do in life.”
Longtime friends and members of Northwood Church who stopped by the Pucheu home on Tuesday reminisced about watching the energetic, giggly young girl grow into a young woman who presented herself with confidence and poise.
Sydney Pucheu was bashful growing up but had a knack for making people laugh, her family said.
“She was still a bit shy, but she had a way of instigating things that would draw people to her and make everybody laugh,” said her uncle, Steve Lero.
Cara Pucheu said she is proud of the compassion her daughter showed starting when she was a child.
“She saw the kids who were not easily accepted by others and she became their friend and they would do things together,” she said.
Her parents said she began to lose some of her shyness when she became acting president of the West Harrison Beta Club after the then-new school opened, and after becoming a lifeguard at the Gulf Islands Waterpark in Gulfport.
“Sydney loved to participate in sports but she never wanted to win,” said Jacques Pucheu, founder of LP Construction Management and owner of Edge Financial Group.
“She didn’t want to draw attention to herself. She didn’t want to be the winner standing in front of everybody at the podium.”
She had played soccer and was a member of the West Harrison High swim team.
She enjoyed any sport her brothers played, her father said. Her younger brother, Jacques, their father’s namesake, is a Division I baseball player at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. Her older brother, Jacob Pucheu, is training at the Louisiana State Police Academy.
Joining the Delta Sigma Chapter of Alpha Delta Pi sorority at Ole Miss expanded her horizons and her circle of friends, her mother said.
While working on information for an obituary, Cara Pucheu read Facebook posts written by her daughter’s friends and sorority sisters. She wept at the kind words.
“Her lively spirit was contagious,” one post said.
“She didn’t even know how many friends she had,” Cara Pucheu said.
Funeral services are Friday at Northwood Church on O’Neal Road in Gulfport. Visitation is from noon to 2 p.m., followed by the service. A brief graveside service will be at Floral Hills Memorial Gardens.