Luminaria honored those lost to cancer, survivors

Candy Neal/The Herald
Tina Heichelbech of Jasper took photos of bags that had the names of her family and friends who either survived cancer or lost their battle to the disease. The bags were around the Dubois County Courthouse as part of Relay for Life’s luminaria ceremony Saturday night.


Anna Gadlage.

Helen Streicher.

Vince Streicher.

Just after nightfall on Saturday, Tina Heichelbech of Jasper looked at the bags that were in line around the Dubois County Courthouse. In particular, she looked for and took photos of bags that had the names of her loved ones.

Esther Heichelbech.

Mary Fleck.

Doug Patberg.

Joe Mullins.

Tina looked at the bags, lightly glowing, remembering the people she’d lost to cancer: Gadlage, her grandmother, the Streichers, her grandparents, Heichelbech, former mother-in-law, Fleck, Patberg and Mullis, friends.

It is because of those she’s lost, and the others who have died from different forms of the disease that Tina is active in Relay for Life of Dubois County.

“Anything to help find a cure, so there's more ’In Honor’ [bags] instead of ‘In Memory,’” she said as she reflected. “Because a lot of them are ‘In Memory.’”

Relay for Life’s luminaria ceremony looked a little different this year.

But the heartfelt meaning behind it was the same.

Instead of it being part of the 12-hour Relay for Life program at Jasper Middle School, the luminaria ceremony was the only part of the event that happened this year.

“Donations are down,” said Diana O’Keefe, co-chair for Relay for Life of Dubois County. “We’ve not been able to do the relay this year. We would have gotten a lot more donations for the luminarias. But those donations are way down.”

But the group didn’t want to skip the luminaria ceremony, which is perhaps the most solemn and reflective aspect of the event.

“We wanted to do something. We didn’t want people to think that we forgot about them,” Diana said.

For this year’s ceremony, 185 glowing bags circled the courthouse. Although the glow could not be seen as well, the white bags stood out in contrast to their dark background.

The public was invited to come see the bags, each with a name on it. The solid white bags had the name of cancer survivors. The bags that were purple and white had written on them the names of those who lost their battle.

Tina belongs to the Relay team from the Jasper Moose Lodge, which started 24 years ago, and has been on a team since Relay for Life started in Dubois County 25 years ago. She continues to stay active, to keep bringing awareness of the disease.

“It’s to let everybody see just how this does affect everybody and how many people are affected,” she said, “just to get the awareness of how big of an issue it really is.”

At 9 p.m., radio station WBDC aired a short program, reading the names of those who have survived and died of cancer. Various songs played in between the two lists being read. Poems were read. Personal testimonies were shared on air. And at the courthouse, everyone sat or stood quietly, many of them with their heads bowed.

Some vehicles circled and small groups of people walked around to see the bags, and read the names.

Pat Gadlage.

Mary Wagner.

Becky Morton.

Tina took a moment to honor Gadlage, her mom, Wagner, her friend, and Morton, her Relay teammate. Gadlage was at the event, and Morton would have been too. But she is now fighting cancer, having beat it 20 years ago.

“Usually they say after like 20 years, you’re clear. But this was her 20 years, and it came back,” Tina said. “So she just is going through that now. But she's doing really good.”

There are so many forms of cancer. “And thankfully, a lot of it is curable nowadays, because you catch it early,” Tina said. “But there are so many people who are going through the fight, and there are many who have lost the fight.”

Relay is still taking donations. Anyone wanting to do so can be submit the donation online at

And the group will place another order of “Hope 2020 Now More Than Ever!” shirts on Thursday, Oct. 1. The shirts come in five colors and sizes range from adult size small to 6X. They are $15 each for up to size XL; the bigger sizes cost a little more. For each shirt sold, Relay for Life receives a $10 donation. Shirts can be ordered through Any questions can be directed to O’Keefe at 812-630-2301.

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