Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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July 11, 2014

Lachney recalled as loving family man, dedicated professional

Corsicana — Firefighters belong to a brotherhood, a family. Whether it is shared experiences, or living together a third of their lives, or the sheer fact of doing a job some would find too emotionally draining, their bond is strong.

In the late hours of the night July 8, Lt. Louis Lachney, a beloved member of this brotherhood who had just made lieutenant recently, was headed home with his two younger sons when a car accident outside of Dawson altered the Lachney family, and the Corsicana Fire Department, forever. Lachney, 46, perished in the accident, though the twin boys survived. The ripples were felt swiftly and deeply, extending far beyond Navarro County.

“Lou was a great guy,” said James Glasgow, fellow firefighter. “Big heart. Always gave everything his all. Very loving, his kids and wife meant everything to him.”

Glasgow said Lachney was always in the middle of any jokes or fire station pranks going on, and as all four of his sons played baseball, it was a favorite subject for him. He never missed a game if he could help it, and his family was his pride and joy.

Of the firefighter bond, Glasgow said, “It’s a brotherhood, a big old family. An everyday citizen can’t imagine how close you get when you live with one another a third of your lives. We have to get pretty close; from shedding tears together, to laughing, to getting our families together ... we seem to spend more time with each other than we do our families. Not to mention everything we see on a daily basis, sad moments we never want to see again, things that other people don’t see.”

In the wake of Lachney’s passing, Glasgow said there’s been an influx of other fire departments from other cities, other towns, calling to offer any help whatsoever, from manning the local fire stations so all local firefighters can attend the funeral, to helping with the funeral.

“We are all brothers, it doesn’t matter if you are from the same department or not,” Glasgow said. “The tremendous outpouring of help from departments across the state means a lot to everyone.”

In keeping with the creed, “never leave a man behind,” the firefighters coordinated a schedule whereby Lachney will not be alone for a moment until he is laid to rest. From the moment his body entered the funeral home, there was a member of the firefighting brotherhood there beside him, whether active or retired.

“It’s a sign of respect,” Glasgow said. “At no time until a brother is put to earth is he left alone. Like when the West explosion happened, they stood there until they were laid to rest. We are coordinating so there will be no gaps, a brother is there at all moments.”

Glasgow also noted that former fire department chaplain Ferman Carpenter made the trip from Round Rock to minister to the brothers in the wake of their loss. For many years, Carpenter met paramedics and firefighters at accident and fire scenes, met them at the hospital, and helped the firefighters in many areas. Carpenter met with members of the fire department late Thursday afternoon to pray and plan for the funeral.

Justin Underwood of the Corsicana Fire Department hired on the same day as Lachney, and since that day, the two were close. A Louisiana native, Lachney was called “Ragin’ Cajun” by Underwood, and their closeness extended beyond the work environment. Both Underwood and Lachney built their own homes, helping one another along the way. Underwood said Lachney’s home used no architects, and the blueprints were only in Lou’s head. It is a true reflection of him.

“Lou was truly one of a kind,” Underwood said. “He had an opinion on everything. His thinking was outside of the box. His theories were never along the lines of everyone else’s, he would debate you, and argue with the wall, but he could open your eyes to a different way of doing things.”

Both men had sons who played on the baseball team in Dawson that went to state for the first time in the school’s history in June of this year. The catch phrase Lachney became known for during that “great journey” was “That was for free!”

“He would give you the shirt off his back to help you,” Underwood said of his friend. “When you have four children, you work shift work, and your wife works shifts as a nurse, you don’t have much extra time on your hands ... but somehow Lou always made time for others when you needed his help.”

Not only was Lachney a huge family man, but he was a great advocate in the fire department brotherhood, he said. Underwood said that between work, coaching, and just life in general, Lachney “studied his butt off” to achieve the rank of lieutenant, something that just happened in recent weeks.

“A lot of people, including myself, were very proud of him for being able to get there,” he said. “He was a free spirit. You would show up somewhere in a dress-casual atmosphere, and Lou would pop up in a stretched-out T-shirt and shorts with a bit of paint on them, and never thought a thing about it. And he always had that mischievous grin on his face ... and that unique laugh.

“We definitely don’t understand it, or why. But we know he will be missed, and (this loss) leaves a giant hole not just in the department, but as a brother and a family member. He will be missed by so many.”

Kay Ovalle had a different experience with Lachney, who she only saw one time on a particularly memorable day. Awakened around 2 a.m. on Jan. 24, 2014 by a loud thud, Ovalle called out to her husband Johnny in the bathroom, who responded that he needed help. Kay believed that it was his blood sugar, since he is diabetic, but he replied that it was not that.

“I called 911, and told them Johnny was in the floor, cold and clammy, shaking and was white as a sheet,” Kay said. “He is Spanish, so for him to be white, there was something wrong. He couldn’t open his eyes because the room would spin.”

About that time “a big, burly man” showed up at her door. Not knowing any paramedics personally, but having a close friend who is married to one, Kay called Suzanne Butaud, to ask her opinion of this burly man taking care of her husband.

“When I told Suzanne it was Lou Lachney, she replied ‘If you’ve got Lou, you’ve got one of the best.’”

Knowing that made Kay feel more calm, and from that point on she did everything Lachney said. When her husband began violently vomiting blood, she knew it was a life or death situation.

“Lou kept me calm, he told me everything that was going on, and eased my mind,” Kay said. “He knew what to say at a point when I was fixing to lose it. We got to the hospital where they did everything Lou told me they were going to do.

“Lou saved my life and my husband’s that night. This man I’d never met before brought me such peace and comfort at a time when I was panicking. He just touched my life, and as far as I’m concerned, he saved my husband. There are no words I can say to his family at this time, but I want them to know he made a huge difference in my whole family’s life.”

Ovalle went on to say we don’t realize how much others do for us in this world, but that you can’t take life for granted. She believes her friend Suzanne was right, and she could not have asked for a better man to be by her side going through that trauma.

“I never saw him any other time, but I believe God brought him to me at just that time,” she said.

Friends may pay their respects to Lachney at a visitation from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Griffin-Roughton Funeral Home in Corsicana. The funeral service for Lachney will be at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Corsicana High School gymnasium.

—————

Deanna Kirk may be reached by email at dkirk@corsicanadailysun.com

 

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