“With a long road to recovery, it’s reassuring to know we have a community here to help, not just today but in days to come,” said Whitney Gearhart.
Late in the evening on October 31, 2017, Chris Owens was moving a pump from one fuel tank to another, lost his balance and fell, landing on his head. As a result of the accident, Chris has experienced multiple strokes, a fractured neck, spine injury and brain stem damage.
Chris and his family, including his wife Kelli, and their daughters; Whitney and her husband, Jason Gearhart; Ayrika Maschino and her husband, Ben; Kieghlea; Brooke; Mackenzie; and Katelyn, farm outside Greensburg, Indiana, in Decatur County. Also on the farm are Chris’ parents, Kenny and Judy Owens; his brother Tim Owens and wife Kristi; and his brother Brian Owens and his fiancé Christin Crabtree. The Owens’ farming operation includes corn, soybeans and cattle.
Since the accident, there has been an outpouring of love and support. With harvest in full swing the local farming community pulled together to help finish out harvesting the Owens’ last 210 acres of corn. In a matter of 24 hours the community organized and brought together a crew of more than 50 people, four combines and countless trucks to help their friends. Kieghlea Owens recalls the morning as things were getting started, “We were prepared and Jason, Whitney’s husband who farms with Chris, had been making sure things were ready. But it was very emotional as more and more people kept coming, the tears started flowing. We couldn’t have asked for a better day, or better people.”
At this time of the year farm safety is always top of mind. Just a week ago, Chris told his grandson, Connor Gearhart (age 3), “Respect the farm and the farm will respect you.” Whitney and Kieghlea talked about how much their dad has always stressed safety to them and prepared them if anything ever happened by making them aware of those individuals who would be their go-to resources.
One of the people who Chris had told his daughters to go to for anything related to the ground and the crops was Aaron Gault of Advanced Agrilytics, their crop consultant. Aaron has worked with the Owens’ family farm since college and he was onsite helping with the harvest on Saturday. After the accident, Aaron also visited Chris in the hospital. Chris has been put under sedation until he is out of the time frame for brain swelling but has been able to respond to his family with a squeeze of the hand. However, when Aaron talked with Chris he received a different reaction. “I told him we wanted to make sure he was at ease and focused on healing. I wanted him to know that we would all work together to take care of things on the farm and make sure things were ready for him when he got back,” said Aaron. As a response to Aaron’s comments, Chris gave him a thumbs up.
The Owens family’s faith is apparent in all of the activity on the farm. People are genuinely happy to be lending a hand and the sentiment that was repeated over and over was that Chris and his family would be the first ones to help if others were in need. Whitney said, “Right now we have a crack in our foundation, our dad is our rock. All of these people here today and who have helped us out are the glue holding us together.”
Chris and his family are members of the Waynesburg Christian Church just down the road from their home. The church community with a donation from Farm Credit Mid-America and others all worked together to prepare a meal for everyone helping on Saturday.
Through the church, Chris and his daughter Brooke, one of the triplets, recently traveled to Liberia on a mission trip with an organization called Hope 2 Liberia. This organization focuses on bringing clean drinking water and hope to the Liberian people. That experience has had a big impact on Chris and his family. They are planning to go back to Liberia in February 2018 to continue their work. A few of the other volunteers from their first mission trip came to St. Vincent Hospital to be with the family after hearing about the accident. They recalled that Chris was moved to tears when he visited an orphanage on the trip and saw the living conditions of the Liberian children. Chris has been determined ever since to improve those conditions and fix the beds for the orphanage.
The power of prayer is apparent in this situation. Chris’ condition continues to improve as a blood clot was removed with success and the brain swelling has maintained at a manageable level. The family continues to focus their prayers to get through the next hurdle. They are asking for the community’s continued prayers and thoughts and they thank the South Decatur school board and faculty for organizing a prayer circle. The prayer circle started on Thursday morning at 7:45am before school started and the students have committed they will continue this every morning until Chris is better.
The Owens’s family is not the only one suffering a tragedy this week. While at the hospital, the Owens’ have become friends with the Zeller family of Noblesville, Indiana. The Zeller’s are also in the hospital with a farming accident and have been a pillar of support for the Owens’. Both families have shared the mantra, “Never give up.”
Jimmy Tomson, a local farmer, friend and cousin who grew up with Chris brought his combine to help on Saturday. “We take for granted all that we do day to day and it just becomes part of the job. We have to remember that it doesn’t all have to get done in one day. As farmers we are always pushing and trying to beat the next rain, windstorm, anything. And, we know that Chris will push through this.”
When asked what could be learned from this situation Whitney stated, “With all of the bad things in the world we are so fortunate to live in a community that comes together with so much love and we want that to be shared. We know farmers all over are trying to beat rain and get it all done but remember to slow down, collect your thoughts and don’t rush. It will all get done.”
The Owens’ family has appreciated all of the support they have received since the accident. Instead of gifts or food they are encouraging donations be made to the Waynesburg Christian Church, 10230 W. Co Rd 850 S, Westport, Indiana, 47283, or Hope 2 Liberia www.hope2.org/donate.
Source: By: Jamey Meyer