Luke Mark Ladendorf, 34, of Fishers, Indiana, left his earthly home for eternal life on Tuesday, September 5, 2023. Luke passed peacefully in the presence of his loving family and longtime homecare nurse.
From the beginning of his beautiful life to its conclusion, Luke Ladendorf was an indominable spirit and, in many respects, a medical miracle. Luke was born to Mark and Debra (Boggs) Ladendorf on May 9, 1989 at then Humana Women’s Hospital in Indianapolis. The Ladendorf and Boggs families would forever change when they learned that Luke was born with a rare and acute neuromuscular disability—Werdnig-Hoffmann disease (SMA 1). As a result of this debilitating and irreversible condition, Luke would never walk or talk. He received a tracheostomy as an infant, and for the rest of his life, he would be ventilator-dependent. From oxygen tanks and wheelchairs to Hoyer lifts and accessible vans, the list of medical equipment and accommodations for Luke’s needs and wellbeing would exceed the space of this page. Upon discovering the extent of his disability, Luke’s prognosis was that he would not make it beyond his first birthday.
God had a different plan for Luke, one Luke both accepted and embraced. Luke would remain a member of humanity for over thirty-four amazing years. In that time, he served as a reflection of his Creator’s love, compassion, and power for all who knew Luke. He would become the centerpiece of his family and keep them close through life’s greatest adversities. In turn, Luke’s family and nurse caretakers aspired daily to provide him with as rich of a life as possible.
Luke attended Hamilton Southeastern Schools in Fishers, Indiana from ages 4 to 22. He was in the inaugural Early Childhood Program at New Britton Elementary School. From preschool through HSE High School, Luke treasured the special educational experience he received from his devoted teachers, the camaraderie with other special-needs students, and the kindness shown to him by his more able-bodied peers. Luke’s education consummated with his graduation and receipt of a high school diploma from Hamilton Southeastern High School in May 2011.
Luke loved absorbing the world outside of his home whenever he could. Even from the position of a wheelchair, Luke had so many fond life experiences. As a child, he rode aboard his family’s pontoon boat across Geist Reservoir. He went to local cinemas to catch the latest Disney movie release. He cherished being pushed on walks around his neighborhood, especially for trick-or-treating on Halloween so that neighbors could enjoy his homemade costumes. He celebrated many birthdays at Woodland or Pinheads bowling alleys, and twice he captained a charity bowling team dubbed “Luke’s Strikers.” Outside of his Indiana home, Luke journeyed twenty straight summers to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for a weeklong vacation with extended family at a cabin upon Chicagon Lake.
Luke loved his siblings, Lance and Hannah, and they adored him in return. The “three peas in a pod” spent countless hours in Luke’s bedroom watching movies and reading books from Luke’s extensive home collections. In his teenage years, Luke enjoyed watching Lance and Hannah compete in varsity athletics, where Luke quickly became a favorite among Park Tudor fans and a good luck charm for his siblings’ teams. Years later, Luke proudly served as Best Man at Lance’s 2015 wedding and as Ring Bearer at Hannah’s 2017 nuptials.
Although Luke’s daily living bore little resemblance to that of most of his age peers, every effort was made to give Luke as enjoyable and “normal” of a childhood as possible. Two particular experiences stand out in this respect.
Luke was blessed to visit Disneyworld twice in his life in the springs of 1993 and 2004. The latter trip was a result of Luke having his “wish” granted by the Indiana chapter of Make-a-Wish®. Luke and his family stayed for a week at the Give Kids The World Village and explored the heralded theme parks during the day. Luke has the Disney character autograph books to prove it!
Additionally, beginning in 2003, Luke attended CHAMP Camp for each of the next nine summers until his graduation in 2011. CHAMP Camp provides a summer camp experience for children and adolescents with tracheostomies and those who require technological respiratory assistance. Luke joined fellow campers from across the nation to enjoy recreational experiences that otherwise would have been improbable, if not impossible, given their disabilities. Luke and his friends participated in activities including fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, rock climbing, and zip lining. Luke spent 51 weeks of each year looking forward to that one week at CHAMP Camp, where he would make magical memories amongst children like him under the remarkable care of CHAMP Camp staff and volunteers.
Although Luke was so very limited in a physical sense, he chose not to be defined by those limitations. Luke’s profound effect on his slice of the world was not tied to his physical attributes or any of the skills one might find on a typical resumé. Rather, Luke’s impact is best understood by the way his gentle existence captivated the souls of others. Luke possessed character virtues essential for good living, which he shared in abundance with all whom he encountered, including compassion, empathy, patience, kindness, and gratitude for each day, knowing tomorrow is never a given.
During the course of his life, Luke received the Catholic Christian sacraments of Baptism, Holy Communion, and Anointing of the Sick. Luke had a palpable closeness to a Higher Power. Through medical emergencies too many to count, he remained unflappable in the face of harrowing situations. His will to live was without equal.
Luke Ladendorf is survived first and foremost by his beloved parents, Mark Ladendorf and Debra Ladendorf, who fought for his wellbeing from Luke’s first day to his last. Luke is also survived by his two siblings, Lance Ladendorf of Carmel, IN and Hannah Harriman of Nashville, TN; sister-in-law Cynthia Nguyen Ladendorf and brother-in-law Chase Harriman; nephews Bentley and Samuel Harriman, niece Lillian Harriman, and nephew Miles Ladendorf; grandmother Helen Boggs; uncles William (Bill) Boggs, Rodney Boggs, Michael (Mick) Ladendorf, Daniel Ladendorf (godfather to Luke), Peter Montgomery, and Roy Jenkins; aunts Lisa Boggs, Susan Ladendorf, and Margaret (Peg) Ladendorf (godmother to Luke); first cousins Bryant Boggs, Elizabeth Ray (husband Jason; daughter Tegan), Tom Ladendorf, Rob Ladendorf, and Jake Ladendorf; many extended family members spread throughout the country; and his 16-year-old calico cat, Gabby. Luke was preceded in death by his grandfathers, Robert Boggs and Robert Ladendorf, and his paternal grandmother Shirley Ladendorf.
Luke’s life was a gift from God, yet his endurance through the race would not have been possible without the efforts of those outside his immediate family who played significant roles in his medical and spiritual care. Luke had numerous stays at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis throughout his life. He remained a “Riley Kid” even into his thirties, as his life was sustained by the loving care of the doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists in the Intensive Care units. Luke would eventually find a way to give back by participating in the hospital’s Pediatric Critical Care Walkathon.
Luke and his family would like to give a special thanks to the following individuals and organizations:
A private memorial service and burial will be held at Our Lady of Peace Cemetery in Indianapolis. The family appreciates the compassionate assistance of Flanner Buchanan staff during the wake of Luke’s passing.
If you wish to honor Luke Ladendorf’s remarkable life with a memorial contribution, please consider giving to CHAMP Camp, Inc., 1950 E. Greyhound Pass, Suite 18-357, Carmel, Indiana 46033 (visit https://www.champcamp.org/ to donate online) or the Riley Children’s Foundation – Critical Care Unit, P.O. Box 3356, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-3356.