FORT WAYNE/WHITLEY COUNTY, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) -- A Pastor from Columbia City is dead after his wife accidentally drove over him at The Community Harvest Food Bank.
Tragedy strikes a Whitley County town when a local pastor died Thursday morning. Rev. James A. Haugen died after being run over by a van driven by his wife at Community Harvest Food Bank in Fort Wayne.
INC News went to Whitley County to talk with people who knew him. Rev. Haugen was the pastor at Living Water Lutheran Church in Wolf Lake for the past four or five years. Before then, he resided over Zion Lutheran Church in Columbia City. Residents in Wolf Lake say although he lived in Columbia City, he made a huge impact in Wolf Lake.
“Everybody that lives here has been affected by the kind things he did,” said Sharon Fear, who lives next door to the church. “It's very sad. It'll be hard on the community and the church.”
Rev. Haugen his family bought three empty properties in Wolf Lake along U.S. Hwy 33, and transformed them into a church, learning center and food pantry. Residents say before Rev. Haugen, there was no food pantry, and they suspect that's why Haugen and his wife, Darlene, who is a nurse at Whitley County Parkview Hospital, were at Community Harvest. They say Rev. Haugen would open the food pantry every Thursday, although this Thursday is was closed.
The people in Wolf Lake say he would drive people to church from Columbia City and would always have children at the church for dinner and Bible study. They claim he would also volunteer at a medical clinic and serve on the planning committee for Wolf Lake’s Onion Days, and who host a booth selling elephant ears. Fear describes him as a “super guy.” Everyone else INC spoke with agrees, and says he was very friendly.
INC has not heard from the family, but was told Thursday might possibly be Rev. Haugen and his wife's wedding anniversary, although that has not been confirmed. INC found a photo of Rev. Haugen at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Strongsville, Ohio with his son, James A. Haugen, Jr. Rev. Haugen gave the sermon at his son’s installation to the church in 2003. Rev. Haugen has at least four grandsons.
At 9:15 Thursday morning, James A. Haugen and his wife were making a pick up at the food bank.
The wife was backing their van up to a truck entrance while her husband was behind the vehicle helping direct her.
Instead of stopping, the vehicle ran over the man and dragged him into the entrance stopping inside the building.
Community Harvest employees used a forklift to free the man before help arrived.
Fort Wayne Police Department Public Information Officer Raquel Foster says, "Quick thinking employees that were able to use that forklift; removed that vehicle from on top of our victim; to give him a chance to fight unfortunately he did succumb to his injuries."
Haugen was the former pastor of Zion Lutheran church in Columbia City and the acting pastor of Living Waters Lutheran Church in Wolf Lake.
This is the 24th traffic fatality for Fort Wayne and Allen County so far this year
Haugen's death is being ruled as accidental.
The Community Harvest is closed for the rest of today and all day Friday. That includes all Farm Wagon Stops. The food bank will reopen Saturday at 9 a.m.
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