Former Illinois schoolteachers join together for Disaster Relief work in Louisiana

Wayne Laechelt (right) uses a pole saw to cut limbs that were hanging precariously over a homeowner’s roof as Ken Cummins holds out a hand to steady him.

Many years ago, when Ken Cummins and Jeff Marquardt were wrestling coaches, they coached at rival schools in Illinois. 

When asked which team won more often, Cummins said slyly, “Well, Jeff’s team, I guess … but there were extenuating circumstances.”

Thankfully, they have been able to put their rivalry behind them, and together with Wayne Laechelt, the Illinois trio has been able to serve together around the country. They arrived in Mandeville, Louisiana, Sept. 5 and plan to work out of the Incident Command Center at Mandeville First Baptist Church until Sept. 21. This area experienced a lot of damage from Hurricane Ida, which made landfall Aug. 29 as a Category 4 storm.

Cummins, who is 77 years old, said, “We’re a comedy team. We have a lot of fun.”

In addition to Disaster Relief work through the Illinois Baptist State Association, the three men have something else in common — they’re all retired schoolteachers. 

A trio from Illinois Baptist State Association Disaster Relief haul a trailer from Three Rivers Baptist Association for recovery and cleanup work in Mandeville, Louisiana.

Marquardt said, “It’s cool because I’ve known Ken for years through different teaching connections and wrestling, and now we get to go out together through this work.”

The trio specialize in cleanup and recovery work with chain saws. When talking about the endurance and physicality required for this kind of work, Cummins takes it back to the Bible. 

“We take Sundays off, just like the Book says,” he said with a smile. “But I’ve been doing this since 2003. I’ve committed to doing this until I can’t anymore.”


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