While trying to light the pilot light on his hot water heater, an explosion rocked
David Ladd’s world.
The process was slow enough that Ladd was
able to back away so the explosion did not burn his face, but it caused second degree burns on his legs. The ensuing fire, however, gutted his home on Route 105 near Elmore.
Fire departments from several nearby communities were at the scene and police had Route 105 closed in both directions. Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church Pastor David Nevergall immediately got in his car, drove to the scene, and circumnavigated the blockade.
“Sometimes it helps to have a collar on. I came around the corner on Graytown Road knowing that the roads are blocked. I told the officer who I was and he was very helpful in letting me get beyond the barricade and to the house,” Pastor Nevergall said.
“It’s one of those when it rains it pours situations. When I got out to the scene of the fire the day it happened, it was obviously a bad situation and Dave was just frantic at what had gone on. He finally let me take him up to the hospital.”
David, 57, went to St. Vincent’s Mercy Hospital to treat his burns, but nearly everything he and wife Linda, 56, owned was lost. Fortunately, the couple’s home is insured, but they were homeless and without possessions until the surrounding community came to their aid.
First were two soldiers who lived at house just 400 yards down the road.
“This young couple is in the military and they got transferred,” David Ladd said. “We contacted them and they had this house up for sale, but they went ahead and rented it out to us so we’d have a place to stay. I mean, they are really nice, young people.”
Then, came the parishioners at the Ladd’s church, Grace Evangelical, and at the church in Stony Ridge were Linda was raised, St. John’s Lutheran.
“From the day of the fire really on, folks have been providing items,” Pastor Nevergall said. “We served as kind of a clearing house for support to the family here. A lot of our own folks contributed clothes and a substantial amount of money. Basically, we just did what we’re supposed to do.
“Most of all, one of the things that has been best for Dave and Linda is during the process they found out how good of a community there was here in support for them. Sure, people responded not just with physical things but with emotional and spiritual support for them. That’s been really powerful. I think that’s been helpful as they recover from this.”
St. John’s took a special offering on Sunday morning, collecting over $800 for the family. The Stony Ridge church also provided household items through its Shared Bounty Program.
“We helped them with some clothing, some baby furniture, and some household furnishings,” St. John’s Senior Pastor Daniel G. Beaudoin said. “It was just a horrible thing to happen to them. What’s always neat is they are part of our community faith and when there is a need the church is always obligated to help. That’s what made me very proud of my congregation — that they came through.”
The churches responded immediately. The outreach began before Dave even left St. Vincent’s.
“The parishioners have just been wonderful,” Dave said. “While I was in the hospital, they were cooking and bringing to Linda clothes and just lots of stuff.”
When it rains…
Like Pastor Nevergall said, “When it rains it pours…”
While fighting off infections, Dave suffered a heart attack he’s recovering from. Dave had been laid off from his job at a local lime plant, but is now working at Lowe’s.
Linda’s 90-year-old mother entered hospice and her daughter has a second grandchild on the way. To make matters more complicated, the Ladds have this dilemma — whether to rebuild on their Portage River property (just over half an acre) or relocate.
Bring in more good Samaritans — Lowe’s employees, two local insurance companies, a construction company, a banker and family friend, St. Vincent’s nurses, and anonymous donors. The anonymous donors have contributed in a variety of ways, said Linda.
“Somebody even just handed me an envelope with money one day,” Linda said.
While Dave was at St. Vincent’s, several nurses on the burn unit contributed. Dave’s fellow employees at Lowe’s stepped up to the plate, donating care packages, food, and clothing. Linda said Lowe’s employees even gave a lamp and clothes dryer.
The family friend is Genoa Banking Company President Martin Sutter. A construction company and a new restoration insurance company are associates of Sutter’s, and the Ladd family home was insured with Blair Insurance Company of Elmore.
But there are problems beyond settling the insurance. Rebuilding would mean having to meet new codes, which could raise the cost to more than the value of their former home. Either way, Linda wants to remain in the Elmore community.
“We’d like to rebuild, but I’m not sure we’re going to,” Dave said. “The county has told us we have to upgrade the septic system. They did grandfather the well and some of the other stuff, but they want us to upgrade the septic system. We haven’t made a decision,”
Sutter’s family has a close relationship to Linda, and the banker is providing advice as a family friend.
“She’s a very caring lady and obviously her biggest thing is what to do next,” Sutter said. “And, that’s a hard thing. It seems easy and you can plan it all out, but when it really happens to you, what do you do next? It’s complicated, and it’s been added complications because of zoning issues and getting final insurance quotes and then making a decision.”
Dave has an idea to settle the issue once and for all, but he doesn’t know how practical it is. The house is gutted, but there still remains a semblance of a frame.
“I’m hoping that we can get enough money that we can go buy another house, and I’ve come up with a bright idea to try and donate (the Portage River property) to one of the organizations uptown,” Dave said. “I’d like the boy scouts to have it, but I don’t know what the legalities and all that would be on it. That’s an idea for me — it just depends on what we do with the insurance company.
“I don’t know whether the boy scouts would be up for that. I could go up and go to their meetings. The garage is still in good shape, and there is a family room that they could re-do and have a place to meet, camp, and fish and whatever else they needed to do because otherwise it’s just going to sit there and grow up in weeds and trees.”
Sutter says Dave and Linda are somehow, piece by piece, fighting through it all.
“I saw him at Christmas and he seems to be doing better,” Sutter said.”But she’s always positive. Always. Linda is an amazing lady. She would do anything for anybody, and I think that is why people reached out for her, and Dave is just a nice guy, too.”