Park sets soup fundraiser for Celestine man


Luke Howard

CELESTINE — Before doctors found the first brain tumor, before surgery to remove a second mass triggered a stroke in his body that changed the course of his life, and before he began the long road to recovery, Martha Goepfrich knew Luke Howard.

She knew him as a man who loved to help others — one of the first to arrive at community fundraisers and benefits, and among the last to leave. Goepfrich knew him as a friend to everyone. And she knew him for his smile.

Now bouncing back from the aftermath of that stroke, it’s Luke’s turn for his neighbors to lift him up.

Sunday morning, Celestine Park will host a chicken ribble soup fundraiser, with all proceeds going to pay for medical expenses Luke and his family have paid and continue to incur.

“We just want to help out the family,” said Goepfrich, who is working with the park organization to host the fundraiser. “We want to do whatever we can to help his healing go even more. He’s got a long way to go, but we really think he’s a fighter. We just love that guy. He’s helped so many people.”

A year ago, Luke, 29, had surgery to remove the benign mass fixed inside his skull. A stroke during the extraction left his right side weak and affected his speech. Other post-operative complications included blood clots and bouts with pneumonia, which forced him to spend about 16 weeks in the intensive care unit at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Indianapolis.

Rehab followed in the ensuing months, as did issues that led to about 10 different emergency trips back to the hospital. Luke finally came home to Celestine on Friday.

Luke is not yet back to where he was before his stroke. In recent years, he’d bought a home in Celestine. He would golf, hunt, work on vehicles and had a full-time job as a machine fabricator at Dubois Equipment.

He had surgery to remove a different brain tumor in 2015, after which he suffered no side effects.

These days, he depends on others to live. He uses a walker to move around. Spending so much time inside is hard on him, but he has a tight group of family and friends who support him, and they are confident Luke will make a strong recovery.

“The doctor keeps telling us that two years from now, he’s going to be just like me and you,” said his mother, Chris. “So, that’s what we’ve got to hope for.”

Luke has always believed his life is in God’s hands. The Howards hold that everything happens for a reason, and no matter how Luke’s life twists and turns, those closest to him will never give up.

His parents already see the strides he has made. His movement and speech are both improving. Outpatient rehab will continue, and with God’s help, he’ll get back in his home, Chris said. Luke’s dad, Jon, explained that having the support of their community throughout the process is huge.

“Instead of a community, it’s more of a small family,” he said of Celestine. “Everybody’s helping each other. It doesn’t matter, you just go help the other person. You don’t ask for anything. If somebody needs something, you just go help get it done.”

This is exactly how Luke lived his life for years. Now, he’s fighting to get back to that.

Jon works at Trilogy Health Services, and Chris works for Kimball Electronics. The Howards thanked both facilities for working with them during the past year as Luke’s life took an unexpected twist.

Goepfrich said more than 200 gallons of chicken ribble soup have been sold, but much more can be made. All the ingredients will be paid for by Luke’s friends.

Those wanting to purchase soup — for pickup at the Celestine Park from 9 a.m. to noon Sunday — can do so by calling or texting Goepfrich at 631-5566. The price is $15 per gallon.

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