But Karen Dugger, his fellow minister at that now-closed church, lost her husband; 12-year-old Landon Dugger lost his dad; and both lost some financial stability.
The Duggers are among those who will receive help this year from the Rescue Fund, supported by donations solicited by the Kingsport Times News and administered by the Salvation Army of Kingsport.
Landon, who turned 12 the month after his dad died, is a sixth-grader at Sevier Middle School.
“He’s (Mike Dugger) always kind of had some medical issues. He was diabetic and disabled,” Karen said of her late husband.
She recalled that in September he had felt bad for a few days, and the second day started turning yellow, which was a sign of jaundice.
“We were pastors of a church,” she said. “His saying was to have faith in Jesus.”
One night after a church service, she said, her husband went to the hospital, where medical tests found his blood ammonia level was 170 compared to a normal one of 15. It turned out he unknowingly had cirrhosis of the liver, a scarring caused by an undiagnosed and advanced case of hepatitis A.
“His body was unable to fight it off,” Karen said, and he died a few days later, on a Monday, from liver and kidney failure.
RESCUE FUND TO HELP
She and her son have been accepted into the Rescue Fund, which provides help for folks who need it around the holidays. In the past, Karen said, she and her husband would buy gifts for less fortunate children through the Angel Tree program. Now, she and her son find themselves in some financial stress.
Although Karen continues to work at a Kingsport Arby’s and has been with that chain for 20 years, at age 40 she is faced with raising her son on her own. Although, Landon will receive survivor benefits from Social Security until he turns 18, Karen said she won’t receive any widow benefits from Social Security for another 20 years.
“I don’t get his Social Security benefits,” she said. “To get a widow’s benefit, you have to be 60.”
Karen said the Arby’s management has been very good to her, allowing her to go to an all-days shift because nobody else was available to be home with her son after he comes home from school.
During Mike’s hospital stay and after his death, Karen was unable to hold church services. Others stepped forward, she said, but ultimately attendance dwindled and the church closed. She said it could reopen if someone wanted to restart it. In the meantime, she and Landon have been going to churches in Johnson City and one in Erwin, the latter of which is pastored by an evangelist friend of hers who officiated at her husband’s funeral.
“I’m just waiting on the Lord to tell us for sure,” she said of choosing a permanent church home. “I don’t want to get ahead of Him.”
You can send your tax-deductible donation to Times News Rescue Fund, 701 Lynn Garden Drive, Kingsport, TN 37660. Or you can donate online by going to https://rescuefund.timesnews.net.