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Volunteer returns to site where husband died

EVANS, La. (BP) — Two months had passed since Margie Fulkerson’s husband unexpectedly died from a heart attack at the same Louisiana home site where she was now working as a member of an Illinois Baptist disaster relief team.

Holding a bottled water to quench her thirst in the 90-degree heat, Fulkerson fought back tears as she remembered when her husband Don passed away in late March while helping mud-out a home in Evans, La., damaged by several feet of flooding.

Gone are the days when the Illinois couple served together as members of the team from First Baptist Church in Galatia. The Fulkersons, who would have celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary in April, had served on 15 disaster relief trips together since their first assignment in 2012.

As emotionally difficult as the decision was to return to work on the same house where her husband passed away, Fulkerson said returning to finish the job is what Don would have wanted.

“He loved this kind of work and always wanted me to come with him,” she said. “I wanted to finish this for him.”

Fulkerson returned with seven other members of the team from Illinois, installing insulation and sheetrock and painting rooms from May 20-27.

Cathy Dudley was on the Illinois team who worked with the Fulkersons on an initial first disaster relief trip to Louisiana several years after Hurricane Katrina.

The hours and days following Don Fulkerson’s death were difficult, Dudley said, but what God did afterward made the situation a bright one for the future.

Dudley recounted that Margie decided during their return trip to Illinois, with the advice of others, for money to be given to First Baptist Galatia’s disaster relief fund in lieu of flowers. The team encountered a Vietnam War veteran during a break while traveling; upon learning what happened in Louisiana, he handed them $100.

That was the beginning of what would be a donation fund that will go toward future relief efforts, Dudley said, as well as help pay half the cost of defibrillators now used by Illinois disaster relief teams for life-threatening emergencies such as the heart attack the 77-year-old Fulkerson suffered.

“When something good comes out of a tragedy, it makes you smile,” Dudley said. “It makes your heart feel good knowing people are helping and keeping his memory alive.”

But the goodwill gesture did not stop there.

Others found out about the team’s return to Evans and donated a trailer full of items for the homeowners such as chairs and various appliances.

Jeremy Blocker, pastor of Simpson (La.) Baptist Church, which sent 12 volunteers to assist the Illinois team in the cleanup effort, was moved by the team’s return to help the homeowners.

“It’s a humbling experience,” Blocker said. “And it’s enlightening to see them wanting to come do this in memory of their Christian brother.”

The Louisiana Baptist Convention offered to pay for embalming services and flying Fulkerson’s body back to Illinois. However, Illinois Baptists had insurance to cover the expenses, so the Louisiana convention is using the same amount of money to assist in the rebuild of the home that the Illinois team was working to complete.

Margie Fulkerson, who has received encouraging cards from Louisiana Baptists, a sheriff and students from an area school, expressed gratitude for the support she has received.

“Thank you people from Louisiana for all the wonderful prayers and cards,” she said. “I can’t believe all the people who have remembered me and Don. I’m gonna keep doing what he loved for as long as I can and help those in need through this important ministry.”