August 2, 2013

Parish pulls together to lift spirits and build a new church in honor of friends who lived their faith to the fullest

Katina Tekulve, left, and Kristy Lowe discuss plans for the “On Eagle’s Wings” 5K Run/Walk that will celebrate the lives of Stephen and Denise Butz and Donald and Barbara Horan during the festival at St. Mary Parish in Greensburg on Aug. 24. Tekulve is logistical coordinator of the event while Lowe is the sponsorship coordinator. (Submitted photo)

Katina Tekulve, left, and Kristy Lowe discuss plans for the “On Eagle’s Wings” 5K Run/Walk that will celebrate the lives of Stephen and Denise Butz and Donald and Barbara Horan during the festival at St. Mary Parish in Greensburg on Aug. 24. Tekulve is logistical coordinator of the event while Lowe is the sponsorship coordinator. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

GREENSBURG—At the time, it seemed almost comical to Kristy Lowe.

The 12 friends had just spent a wonderful weekend in Florida together, capping it off by attending Mass before they headed to the airport to return home to Indiana in two private planes.

As they stood on the tarmac of the runway, one of the six women on the trip hugged another woman, and before long everyone was hugging.

“We were hugging like it was the last time we’d see each other for years and years,” Lowe recalls about that moment on Dec. 2, 2012. “We stepped back and laughed, saying, ‘Oh, my gosh, we’re going to see each other in a few hours!’ I thought it was funny.”

Before that day ended, four of those friends—Donald and Barbara Horan and Stephen and Denise Butz—died when Donald Horan’s single-engine plane crashed in dense fog near the Greensburg airport.

Reflecting on that tragedy, Lowe now believes that hug-filled farewell is the best way for people to say goodbye to each other, no matter how long or soon they expect to see each other again.

“Looking back, I realize how precious it was,” she says. “We got a chance to say goodbye to them. I am so glad we had that time with them.”

Lowe pauses and adds, “Every aspect of our parish and community life was hit hard by that plane crash.”

A way to honor and remember

Eight months have passed since the tragedy, and the pain and the void created by the loss of the two couples is still there, still deep. So is the desire to remember them and honor them.

That’s why St. Mary Parish in Greensburg has added a special event to its annual festival. On Aug. 24, the parish will hold the first “On Eagle’s Wings” 5K Run/Walk and Kids’ Fun Run as a way to celebrate the lives, faith and love that the Butzes and Horans shared with their family, friends, parish and community.

“Steve and Don ran on a regular basis, and Barb and Denise liked to walk,” Lowe says. “We thought this event would honor their physically active lives and their spiritually active lives.”

The event is the brainchild of Jeff Dougan and Brian Wenning, co-chairs of the parish festival that both couples were involved in for years.

“I think it’s a way to honor them in body, mind and spirit,” says Wenning, a self-described “longtime Catholic friend” of Don Horan who delivered the eulogy for the Horans. “I think we’ll have a great turnout. It’s a testament to how many lives they touched.”

The “On Eagle’s Wing” event was initially developed as a fundraiser to help the four daughters of the Horans and the two sons of the Butzes, who are all living with relatives of their parents. The families had a different plan.

While a five-year capital campaign raised enough money to build a new St. Mary School that opened at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, there wasn’t enough money to build a new church. The families thought the fundraiser should be geared toward completing that goal.

“They explained that if Don, Barb, Steve and Denise were still here, they would be working to raise the funds to build a new church near the new school,” Lowe notes. “So they asked that the proceeds generated from the 5K be given to the St. Mary’s Building Fund in memory of them. It shows where the families’ and the children’s hearts are. They were willing to set aside any gain for themselves and put God first.”

That attitude has spread to the parishioners, according to Father John Meyer, the parish’s pastor.

“They’ve stepped forward to volunteer, knowing the new church meant so much to the Butz and Horan families,” Father Meyer says. “People want to do this in honor of them and their families. I just find it edifying that the community and the parish see the new church as a wonderful goal.”

Stepping up to the line

As members of the parish prepare for the run and walk, they like to think of how their four friends would react to the event.

“The run-walk just seems fitting because this is something they wanted to do before,” says Tricia Burkhart, a St. Mary School mom who was part of a morning walking group with Barb Horan. “One of our routes now is through the cemetery. We stop by the Horans and the Butzes and say hi. I feel proud and honored that I knew them as friends.”

That reaction is common among the people of the parish and the larger Greensburg community, Lowe says.

“When help was needed, they were the people who stepped up first,” she says. “Knowing that this is in support of the church, they would be all for it. I can see them on the day of the race running and walking with us. Don would even being rounding up a legion of angels.”

Even as she smiles about that thought, Lowe acknowledges the pain that she and so many others feel with the absence of their four friends.

“Have I cried about it? Yeah,” she says. “I broke down and cried that they wouldn’t be there for this.”

Still, she has found strength and comfort in her faith and her fellow parishioners—a reality she sees for many members in the parish.

“When tragedy hits, we do one of two things. We either lean on our faith or we question it,” Lowe says. “To any outsiders who are looking at this faith community, we want people to see we are leaning on our faith. We trust God enough that he is aware of this situation, that he is traveling with us, and when things get tough, he will carry us through.

“When you see people reaching out to help others—even when they are hurting—that’s when you know that strength comes from something greater than you and I. It comes from God.”

Lowe also sees a great purpose in the way her four friends lived, a purpose that she believes people will focus on again on the day of the run and the walk.

“What an incredible world we could live in if we all followed in the footprints that all of them lived—to show the love that all of them showed, to have the relationships that all of them had.

“They had such a positive influence on so many people.”
 

(For more information about—and registration for—the “On Eagle’s Wings” 5K Run/Walk, check the website, www.oneagleswings5k.com. Organizers note that the 5K race will be professionally timed.)

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