Wactor turns tragedy into gift of life for others

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 1, 2001

JONESVILLE, La. – Patricia Wactor of Natchez lost her husband, Mike, one and a half years ago in a vehicle accident in Catahoula Parish. He was pinned inside his truck for one hour and 45 minutes because no equipment was available in that parish to extract him from the vehicle. Equipment was brought in from neighboring Concordia Parish, but Mike Wactor died on the way to the hospital that day. So, soon after her husband’s death, Patricia Wactor wrote a $5,000 check to the Sandy Lake Fire and Rescue Department to help it buy Jaws of Life equipment.

She also solicited donations from local people and businesses to help Sandy Lake volunteers raise the remaining $7,000 needed to purchase the equipment.

&uot;It was something Mike would have done,&uot; she said softly. &uot;Besides, (the Sandy Lake volunteers) went beyond the call of duty. They stayed there with Mike, and they even called me at home later to see how I&160;was doing.&uot;

Now, efforts that started with her husband’s death have brought life to many others. One year ago, Sandy Lake was able to purchase the Jaws of Life equipment.

Since then, the department’s volunteers responded to at least 35 emergency calls a month. That not only includes accidents in Sandy Lake’s service area, between Jonesville to Harrisonburg, but throughout Catahoula Parish.

&uot;Now that we have the equipment, it’s in demand,&uot; said Fire Chief Robert Squyres, noting that Catahoula Parish does not have a hospital or ambulance service.

And because the department now has the right equipment, more people have signed up as volunteer rescue personnel. The department had five volunteers at the time of Wactor’s donation; it now has 26.

Since her husband’s death, Wactor has participated in benefits to raise money for other needed pieces of equipment for the Sandy Lake Fire and Rescue Department. Tonight, for example, she will appear at a gospel singing benefit for the department to meet people and tell them her story. The benefit, which starts at 7 p.m. at the Harrisonburg Auditorium, will help raise money for defibrillators and oxygen meters for Sandy Lake.

And Squyres and his volunteers will present her with a framed certificate to show their appreciation for the help she has given them.

&uot;Without her,&uot; said Squyres, &uot;there’s no way we could have gotten the equipment we have.&uot;