GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The remains of the four people killed in a car accident while on a service trip to Haiti are back in Grand Rapids.
Jim and Rita Cwengros, Mary LaPonsie, and Matt Kutsche died on January 11 in Haiti when the car they were riding in drove off a mountainside. Haitian police confirm faulty brakes as the cause of the accident.
Carly Andrews is still wearing the engagement ring Matt Kutsche gave her in October. They were set to be wed on June 6, 2014.
She sits by the side of David Kutsche, Matt’s father, as he remembers his son.
“I think he got strength from helping others and just feeling good about that,” David says. “It was really touching as a parent to see what he was growing into.”
David and his family say they’ve heard story after story from people around the community who Matt touched with his kind acts and service. On top of his time spent on other service trips and coaching Special Olympic athletes, David knows his son did a lot in a short time.
“(He) did more in almost 25 years than other people do in a long lifetime,” he says. “Hopefully his memories, his examples will cause other people to do things that maybe they didn’t think about.”
Eric, Laura, and Andy Cwengros were raised by a father who they say lived a life inspired by a need to serve and a mother who constantly went the extra mile for others.
That’s the philosophy they carry on in their parents’ memory.
“If you have a calling, go ahead and do it,” Laura says. “Theirs was going to Haiti, but anything you can do to help others was their biggest joy in life. That’s what they thought everyone should do.”
“I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me that I’ve never met before and said they considered my mother one of their best friends,” Andy says.
“They just felt that it was the right thing,” Eric says of his parents’ service. “They felt like that’s what they needed to do. They had the skills. They had the know-how.”
“All their decisions came from their hearts,” he continues, starting to choke up. “That’s why we’re here today.”
Mary LaPonsie’s family echo the same sentiments about their mother and wife.
“Mary was a fantastic wife,” Mike LaPonsie says. “I’ve been blessed beyond belief to be married to her. And she’s been a wonderful mother and role model to our daughters.”
“You could not stop her if she wanted to do something,” daughter Sadie says. “She was just 100% into everything. The thing I just keep realizing is not only is she completely irreplaceable to us and to our family, but it’s going to be that way in 15 different roles – at work, everything that she does.”
“As hard as this is – which it is – we have comfort knowing that Mary was doing God’s work and doing it joyfully,” Mike says.
“We believe she’s in Heaven and that’s a comfort to us.”
Funeral arrangements are pending for the four victims.