Donna Lamb remembers how important the Boys & Girls Clubs in South Portland was to her son Kris Roukey. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

She sat inside the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine’s clubhouse in South Portland on Monday, a box of tissues placed discreetly to one side. Donna Lamb had come not to mourn, though, but to remember.

“I couldn’t get him out of here,” she said with a smile, looking back over four decades to when her son, Kris Roukey, was a spirited kid living across busy Broadway from the club that became his home away from home. “I’d call up here and say, ‘Kris, you have to come home for supper!’ And he’d say, ‘Yeah, OK, Mom.’ And I’d watch from the window while he crossed the street – and as soon as he ate, he’d be right back here.”

One year ago this Monday, Kris, 48, died in a hail of gunfire in a parking lot in Akron, Ohio. As the dreaded anniversary approaches, his mother finds herself looking for some way to remember her only child – not just as another victim of another violent crime but as a kind, gentle-hearted man whose roots trace directly back to this place that once welcomed him with open arms.

Kris Roukey, circa 1983, wearing a Boys & Girls Club cap. Photo courtesy of Donna Lamb

Donna, her then-husband, Bob, and young Kris moved into the modest home in 1979, coming from an apartment at Munjoy South in Portland. It was a tough move for Kris, who missed his friends across the harbor, knew no one in his new neighborhood and was too young by a year to enter the Boys & Girls Club located so enticingly right across the street.

But then he turned 7, old enough to join. And while his parents toiled through their work weeks – his father drove a Metro bus, his mother worked in a fitness salon – Kris became a daily after-school fixture at the club. Kickball, bumper pool, ping-pong, soccer, you name it. If there was a game on, Kris was at the center of it.

But his real passion was baseball. Shorter and slighter than his peers, he nevertheless played with a ferocity that turned heads.


“Being smaller than most kids, he had to work even harder to succeed,” recalled John “Slim” Lee, who recently retired as clubhouse director. “He won a lot of awards during the years he was with us – I would like to think that we played a small part in his successes.”

Those successes were many. After graduating from South Portland High School, Kris earned a degree in sports management from Springfield College. That led to an internship with the Portland Sea Dogs – his first step toward a career in the business and marketing side of the sport he so revered.

Kris Roukey, circa 2012. Photo courtesy of Donna Lamb

From Portland, Kris went to work for the minor league Tulsa Drillers in Oklahoma, followed by a stint with the Aeros (now the Rubber Ducks) in Akron. It was there he met, fell in love with and married Rachel, who worked part-time in the team shop. They had two children, Madison and Tyler.

Then Kris got his big break. For 15 years, he worked in merchandising for the Cleveland Indians. His daughter Maddie developed into a standout softball player – good enough to land a scholarship at Division I Bucknell University. Tyler, meanwhile, developed his own passion for volleyball. Life was good.

But it would not last. The COVID-19 pandemic arrived in 2020, truncating the Major League Baseball season, and suddenly Kris found himself out of a job. Not prone to self-pity and with a family to support, he became a Lyft driver and scheduled his driving shifts around Maddie’s softball schedule and other family duties. He actually liked the new gig.

But his mother, by now living in Windham – she and Robert divorced when Kris was 15 – grimaced at the thought of him picking up and dropping off perfect strangers day in and day out.


“Please,” she’d beg him during their frequent phone calls. “People are getting shot all the time. Can’t you just find a safer line of work?”

“Mom, I’m 48 years old. You need to stop worrying. I’m happy,” Kris would tell her.

The call came from Rachel’s father on May 2, a Sunday afternoon. Kris had picked up a young man in Akron and, after only two blocks, suddenly pulled into a Circle K gas station parking lot. There, according to police, the passenger got out and fired five shots into the car, three of which hit Kris as he tried in vain to get away. He died a short time later after being rushed by ambulance to a hospital.

Donna Lamb, with a photo of her son, Kris Roukey. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Donna was on her way home from a day trip to South Paris with her partner, Ron Neptune, when she heard the news. Ron brought her, screaming in anguish, to a nearby fire station.

“They took me to the hospital, where they checked my heart and gave me a sedative,” Donna said, by now dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. “I remember I couldn’t breathe. I was so short of breath – I couldn’t breathe out.”

Police arrested Kahlyl Powe, 23, of Akron, and charged him with murder. Detectives and prosecutors have told Donna that Powe had been fired from a local restaurant the day before and had called for the Lyft ride to go back to his former workplace. Investigators told Donna that Kris likely figured out where his passenger wanted to go and ended the ride – at which point Powe allegedly turned his gun on Kris. The case has yet to go to trial.


“The police have told me Kris died a hero,” Donna said quietly.

Over the past year, Donna has tried mightily to channel her grief and shake away all those memories of her pleading with her son to stop opening his car door to strangers. She’s thought about those days back on Broadway when her little boy – one foot in their house, the other in the Boys & Girls Club – blossomed into an athlete, a good kid, a role model for his many friends.

Kris Roukey, with cue stick, plays bumper pool at the Boys & Girls Club in South Portland in the early 80’s. Photo courtesy of Donna Lamb

One memory keeps coming back: Kris, at bat in a baseball tournament with the bases loaded and the game on the line. He gulps, swings and much to everyone’s astonishment – especially his own – the ball sails over the fence. A grand slam.

“I can see his little face running around the bases and and he was saying ‘Holy (expletive)!’ ” Donna said with a laugh. “Then the coach threw the ball over the fence to me. I still have that ball.”

She also still has an undying sense of gratitude to the Boys & Girls Club, all these years later, for how it helped keep her son out of trouble and on track to a rewarding – albeit too short – life as a baseball businessman, husband and father. And so there she sat this week, explaining that while she doesn’t have a lot of money, she wants to donate to the club in Kris’s name each May 2 – maybe enough to replenish the bats and balls and other equipment that infused her boy with his love for baseball. She hopes others might do the same.

At the same time, the South Portland clubhouse is exploring ideas for commemorating the years Kris spent there – something active, something fun, something that will prompt new generations of local kids to ask, year after year, “Who was Kris Roukey?”

Donna glanced out the window across the street at her old home, at the window where she’d look out while Kris made a beeline to his favorite place on earth. So many years have passed, yet somehow it still feels like yesterday.

“I knew when he was growing up that this was a wonderful place,” Donna said. “But it didn’t hit me until I lost him how wonderful it really was.”

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