Fishers chaplain provides relief beyond tragedy: ‘He was the face in my darkest hour’

Fishers Chaplain, Rusty Kennedy, sits with a family he assisted after a loved one committed suicide. (WISH Photo/Nick Natario)
Fishers Chaplain, Rusty Kennedy, sits with a family he assisted after a loved one committed suicide. (WISH Photo/Nick Natario)

FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) – In Fishers, emergency responders might be the ones viewed as heroes, but there’s a group in background that makes the biggest difference for some families.

“You just love on them,” Fishers Chaplain, Gary Stump said. “You tell them how sorry you are. You don’t expect to say something that’s going to make it okay. You’re just there with them in their grief.”

It’s something Linda Del Fabro experienced a year and half ago. “When I walked to the door, I saw the two policemen with, their faces told it all, and I literally dropped to my knees,” Del Fabro said.

Her son, Brent, committed suicide. Surrounded by officers, and family, it was a face in the background who brought her comfort.

“When he walked through the door was as if you’d had known him for years,” Del Fabro said. Twenty months later, he’s still walking through the door.

Rusty Kennedy is a Fishers’ Chaplain. It’s a service the city provides to comfort loved ones.

While they assist during an immediate crisis, some families never let go. For the Del Fabros, Kennedy has become a friend. He attends holiday dinners, officiated a funeral, and they even see him Sundays at his service inside Pinheads.

“We didn’t know one another,” Linda’s son, Brandon Leum said. “So I think him getting the random call to come to our house that night is an intervention into our lives that is certainly positive, and was huge for us.”

Kennedy doesn’t get paid. But it’s outcomes like this that make the effort worth it. “To be able have relationships with these people is a big deal, and it’s an honor honestly,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy isn’t the only Fishers chaplain. Gary Stump is the longest tenured Fishers chaplain at 13 years.

Gary Stump (left), and Rusty Kennedy are two of five Fishers chaplain, who answers dozens of emergency calls each year. (WISH Photo/Nick Natario)
Gary Stump (left), and Rusty Kennedy are two of five Fishers chaplain, who answers dozens of emergency calls each year. (WISH Photo/Nick Natario)

Despite the experience, he still grips the wheel as he heads to the scene. “It’s an emotional drive,” Stump said. “Yeah, I mean, you’re feeling anxiety, and pressure to be able to help”

Stump and Kenney are two of five city chaplains. It’s a program that’s gotten busier, as Fishers continues to grow.

“To think that maybe you’ve helped in a little way, that is really helpful and encouraging to us,” Stump said.

“We’re just doing our job, which is not really a job,” Kennedy said. “It’s a calling that God has given on our lives.”

When the need for a chaplain arises, a page goes out to all five. Depending on the size and scope of the situation, multiple respond, or just one.

“It’s just part of every day of who we are,” Kennedy said. “I do that every day of my life, not just when I get a page to come to a crisis. I don’t see us as a hero, and I don’t think any of the other guys would as well.”

Kennedy may not see it, but the Del Fabro’s sure do. The sting of the January 2015 night still haunts them, but looking at memories is a little easier thanks to someone who prefers the background.

“He was the face in my darkest hour that gave me comfort,” Del Fabro said.

Chaplains are volunteers, but undergo hours of training. While many have religious backgrounds, in Fishers, some don’t. If you’re interested in the position, or learning more about the program, reach out to your local emergency responders.

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