Family, friends gather to replace roof on cancer-stricken Buckley man's home

Family, friends gather to replace roof on cancer-stricken Buckley man's home

BUCKLEY — Dozens of family members and friends of a dying Buckley man turned their feelings of helplessness into action Saturday.

"It's been overwhelming," Linda Marquis said more than once as she surveyed the folks who turned out to put a new roof on the home of her son and daughter-in-law. In this Iroquois County village of about 560, almost everyone knows each other.

Inside the quaint two-story home, Devin Marquis, 38, was hanging on to life, about to be overcome by the cancer first discovered in him a mere 15 months ago.

"He's aware of what's going on and can sense everybody being here. It's a little noisy, but this is the work he did," said Jessie Marquis, his wife of eight years. "I hope it's a little therapeutic."

"We were hoping it would be soothing for him to hear them on the roof," his mom said. "This was something on his list he wanted to get done. I'm sure it's a sense of relief to him."

Steve Marquis said he and his son, the older of his two boys, would have been putting the roof on together had circumstances been different. They intended to do it last summer. But life and sickness got in the way.

Jessie said that more than a year ago, when her husband was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer, he had to give up his interest in the construction company he co-owned for 10 years with his lifelong friend Reggie Weppler.

The "R" of "R and D Construction" was also there helping out Saturday.

"I'm just glad he's still with us to see the roof is done. It's been on his mind for a year," said Weppler, also marveling at the turnout. "They are all friends and family. It's a blessing to have good people."

As if replacing the worn-out roof wasn't enough, friends pitched in to build a sand box and a play structure for Devin and Jessie's son Landon, 6.

"I actually want to play on it right now," said Landon, who patiently posed with his mom, aunt, uncle and grandparents for a photo to mark the occasion.

"He has a good understanding for a 6-year-old," Jessie said of their offspring's grasp of what his dad faces.

Linda and Steve Marquis said they called their friend Ron Rieches recently to hire him to replace the roof on the Elm Street house that has held three generations of Linda's family.

Rieches, a Buckley farmer who has worked part-time for 30 years putting on roofs, immediately agreed.

But he had an additional thought: "We'll do it all with volunteer labor."

"With our community, all you gotta do is say, 'We're going to do this.' Everyone is so good-hearted. They just showed up," Rieches said.

About 50 men and women turned out with food, roofing materials, tools and sheer determination on what was arguably the nicest day of the summer to rip off the old roof and replace it in about six hours. Some two dozen pickup trucks lined the streets around the Marquis manor.

Rieches said so many friends of Devin Marquis and his extended family wanted to do something tangible to help.

"Sometimes prayers don't work. It's a terrible thing they're going through. The community is pulling together," he said.

Not only did they donate their time and food, they gave enough money to pay for the roof, Linda said.

Her younger son, Colin Marquis and his wife, Katie, live in Wilton, Iowa, but came home a few days ago to be with Devin and to help out.

"Thankful," was about all Colin could say of what was happening for his family.

Steve also expressed gratitude for the time his family got to spend together the week before Memorial Day in a cabin his family owns on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It wasn't long after that Devin's health took a turn for the worse.

"He and I had a couple days alone," Steve said.

"That was Devin's happy place," said his mom.

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