DHI Media Correspondent
VAN WERT — When Edie Laukhuf took position as director of the Van Wert County Red Cross on Nov. 1, 2002, she did so with a bit of fear and concern. She had worked out of Fort Wayne, collecting blood on buses and in-station. She had served as safety director in Van Wert for 6 ½ years, but being at the top was not exactly in her comfort zone.
But little did she realize at the time what was just around the corner for her young leadership challenge. Ten days later, on Nov. 10, 2002, a massive violent tornado swept into the community, devastating hundreds of homes and businesses and causing many injuries throughout the area.
“I knew Red Cross blood services and Red Cross health services, but to suddenly take over an entire county-wide disaster? Without the help of EMA director Rick McCoy and a surprise individual God brought into the community at the right time, I don’t know what I would have done,” said Laukhuf.
Ironically, or in what Laukhuf considered divine timing, another Red Cross person was just driving through the community when the storm hit. And to make it better, he was the director of disaster services in his own county.
“You talk about God qualifying who He chooses, man was that guy a help to me. He already had things pretty well in place by 9 p.m.,” said Laukhuf. She remembers that first night when she stayed at the Red Cross Chapter all night. She was astounded by the number of volunteers that came in, both from in the county and out of the county. For a few days, she never went home to bed.
Laukhuf was raised in Michigan. There she received an LPN degree affiliated with Mercy Hospital. It was at church camp where she met Rod Laukhuf, a young man who would eventually become her husband. That was 45 years ago. She married Laukhuf and moved to the local area where she was first employed as a nurse by Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne.
Next on the agenda for her was a stint with Dallas Lamb Home in Payne, then work in the office of Dr. Joseph Hoover in Fort Wayne, and then to Van Wert County where she worked in the office of Dr. Jack Cox in Van Wert. It was from there she launched her career at the Red Cross.
For 40 years, Rod worked as a mechanical engineer for International Harvester/Navastar. These days he serves as a project engineer one day a week for Insource at Junction. The Laukhufs have four children and 10 grandchildren.
Laukhuf said that her greatest joy over the years has been watching God place the right people at the right moment for the needs of others. “The situation with the Red Cross man who was passing through our town at the time of the tornado helped me to understand how God is totally in control,” said Laukhuf. “Life is a challenge. I’ve had just as many problems in the Red Cross as anyone else has, but God knew where He wanted me to be during those 20 years. I was just an instrument but He was there, He is faithful.”
It was Feb. 1, 2012 when Laukhuf passed the torch of Van Wert County Red Cross to Sandy Lane, a lady she said that she trusts and admires greatly for her ability and capability of taking care of the chapter.
“I feel that Sandy deserves the job,” said Laukhuf. “It is very good to know that my job has been followed up by such a qualified person.”