Beth Houghton

How does a man, recently married and newly retired, cope with the discovery that he has been diagnosed with leukemia?

Over a year ago, Tom Plachetzki, a Chartwell worker in the Oklahoma Baptist University cafeteria, coped with his leukemia diagnosis by leaving his retirement and applying at OBU in hopes that working would give him the daily motivation to wake up and battle the cancer inside of him. After his diagnosis, Plachetzki struggled with a motivation to fight the cancer that plagued him, so when Plachetzki’s doctor said, “Get out of your chair go find something to do,” Plachetzki complied. Seeking a motivator, Plachetzki applied at Oklahoma Baptist University, and the next day he was working as a Chartwell employee in the cafeteria. Since then, Plachetzki has beaten cancer and remains a loyal and loveable employee with an inspiring story.

Plachetzki’s story begins in Detroit, Michigan where he was born on May 13, 1953, though he grew up in a little town just west of Detroit. From a young age, Plachetzki had a deeply innate love for people which was revealed in the respect and love with which he treated all people. In fact, because of his love for others, Plachetzki left his hometown, a town he describes as racist, as soon as he graduated high school. Plachetzki moved to Belleville, a diverse community, because he wanted to raise his future children in a community without racism. 

“[In] God’s eyes we’re all created equal, all bleed blood,” Plachetzki said. Plachetzki’s hatred for racism and love for all people, no matter the color of their skin, set him apart in the 1970s, and still today his values and love for others prove him to be a distinctive and caring individual. 

Plachetzki’s love for people is something that he has carried from his childhood, through his 40-year career as an engineer for the Coca-Cola company and into his post-retirement career at Oklahoma Baptist University. In fact, his love for OBU students is evident. “I love each and every one of you [students] here [at Oklahoma Baptist University].” He also said the students helped him to recover. “I know in my heart [my healing was] a threefold thing. First, God, secondly, the doctors and the hospitals third, [the] students, [they] cured me,” he said, “I feel as if every one of [the] students stood in line with a needle and a syringe that said ‘cure’ and put it into my arm.” Now, fully recovered from cancer, Plachetzki still describes Bison Hill as a healing place where he loves to be. “I walk in this door and look around and just one or two students say hello to me… and it pumps me up and makes feel me special.” He loves OBU and sees it as a healing place. “Being here is like taking vitamins every day. Right here in this building [the downstairs cafeteria] is the best vitamins.” To Plachetzki, being around the students, that he has spent so much time getting to know, is the best medicine a man can have. Although Plachetzki may have started working at Oklahoma Baptist University because he needed to fight through his cancer by being active, he continues to work because he loves the students and wants to pour into their lives.  

Not only is Plachetzki an employee who loves the students he serves, but he is also beloved by all who meet him. Students at OBU always look forward to his friendly greetings and warm smiles. A current sophomore at Oklahoma Baptist University, Victoria Coolidge describes Plachetzki as, “very loud and exuberant.” She went on to say, “he is full of life and energy; he’s so fun to talk to. He always asks me how I am which is so sweet. And for me personally, he tells me my laugh reminds me of his passed wife and that warms my heart. He really just loves people. I love him; he’s so sweet.” Another student, Braxton Gammon, says Plachetzki is, “Loud and enthusiastic.” Gammon also says, “I like how [Plachetzki] does the job because he enjoys it, not because he has to.” Like many other students at Oklahoma Baptist, Gammon has taken notice of Plachetzki’s love for his work at Oklahoma Baptist University. The way that Plachetzki excitedly greets people, takes time to get to know students personally, and intentionally shares his regard for others shines brightly. Students and employees alike notice that there is something loveable that sets Plachetzki apart from others.

When asked what she thinks sets Plachetzki apart, current Freshman, Catherine Burgess, said, “His active intentionality with all students is what sets him apart. Engaging with everyone and being more than someone who is just there. He is more than just a friendly face. He is someone who cares for [students’] wellbeing and wants to know what’s going on.” Another student, Arielle Quartuccio, when asked a similar questioned said, “He’s always caring for people like Christ would, he genuinely cares about your life and not just the typical ‘oh how’s your day,’ he cares like Jesus would, and he talks about Jesus in his day-to-day life.” It is undeniable that Plachetzki is adored by the students he serves. 

However, Plachetzki is not only loved by students, but he is also valued by his co-workers and superiors. Every day, Plachetzki is heartily greeted by his co-workers, and he is intentional in conversing with them. Not only that, but his friendliness sets him apart so that even his boss, Jinny Parra, Assistant Dining Director at Oklahoma Baptist University, said, “He cares about people…. He communicates and cares about [students] having a good day and enjoying the meal. He’s Responsible.” Parra also said, “He believes that God brought him to this place. [He] loves Jesus; he believes God put him here for a purpose. He believes in that. He never thought he’d be in a place like [Oklahoma Baptist University] with Christianity. He had cancer before, and now he’s in a place where he’s God’s tool.” It is in Parra’s quote that Plachetzki’s story is summarized: Plachetzki, a lover of Jesus and of people, beat cancer through working at Oklahoma Baptist University and has continued to work there as God’s tool ever since.

To this day, Plachetzki is joyfully working at Oklahoma Baptist University, and says that, though he will be 58 in May, he does not plan to retire until he is 75-80 years old because he dearly loves interacting with and serving the students at Oklahoma Baptist University. Plachetzki says, “I believe the greatest gift you can give is your time,” and he intends to continue to give his time to the students for as long as the Lord allows him to. He also mentioned that he knows his time and resources are not really his, but instead, they were given to him, “to be utilized for what God wanted.”  The resources are “to be utilized for God’s goodness…it’s all from God. I am just a custodian for what He’s blessed me with,” Plachetzki said. It is because of this mindset, that all Plachetzki has- time and wealth- are merely gifts, given by God, to be used to bless others, that Plachetzki remains at Oklahoma Baptist University, happily giving his “gifts” to the students. Plachetzki ended his interview by saying, “I hope that someday when I meet God, He doesn’t even have to say a word to me, He just pats me on the back and lets me through the gates.” Lastly, he said, “That’s my life; all to God defines my life basically.” 

When students look at Tom Plachetzki, they cannot help but notice that the Lord’s love shines through and pours out of him. Plachetzki’s love for Christ and love for others is shown by how he joyfully gives away his time and how he loyally remains working at Oklahoma Baptist University, loving on the students, over a year after he has beaten the leukemia that brought him to Oklahoma Baptist University. 

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