By Jared Putnam
After spending the past two months battling COVID-19, Robert and Ann Wright hoped the worst of 2020 was behind them. Instead, they are now facing the added challenge of rebuilding their house.
The couple lost their home of more than 30 years and a lifetime of personal items along with it on Tuesday, Dec. 15, as a chimney fire consumed most of their two-story house off Compass Creek Road in Clay County.
Ann and Robert were home watching television just after 8 p.m. when a neighbor ran to the door to tell them that their chimney and roof were on fire.
"I thought, 'I'm going to lose about everything I've got' and I did," Ann said.
"I just cried and cried and cried. A lot of my sentimental stuff is gone."
The couple got out with their 2-year-old chihuahua and a handful of personal items — little more than the clothes on their backs. Among the personal items lost was a collection of hundreds of die-cast and matchbox cars.
This is the second time the family has dealt with a house fire in their lives — the first coming 47 years ago when they lived in Florida. Paula Wright, Robert's daughter, said her stepmother, Ann, almost had to be taken to the hospital for a fourth time in recent weeks following the fire. She had already made three visits due to COVID-19.
"Her blood pressure was at stroke level," Paula said. "This has definitely not been a good year for the family.
"In February, my brother's wife passed away unexpectedly. Forty-nine years old, had Stage 4 stomach cancer, was diagnosed and within two weeks was gone. We've all been dealing with that loss, leaving my brother with three kids, then COVID, now the loss of the house."
The Wrights said there are many people to thank for an outpouring of community support during this time, including their neighbor, Steve, who warned them about the fire, and neighbors Greg and Jennifer Haigler, who opened up their home to the couple that night.
The Wrights are now back on their property, living in a fifth wheel camper. Their home was insured and they plan to rebuild.
"I want to say thank you to the fire department, the EMC and the community," Ann said. "Our church, Catalyst Church, they donated money and Free Will Baptist Church donated clothes. I didn't have anything except pajamas.
"I also want to thank Julie Ashe and her boss for giving us five days at The Ridges Resort. We didn't have anywhere to stay until we got our camper."
Anyone who would like to assist the couple can do so via Jacky Jones Dodge, care of Ed Ashe or contact Paula at (706) 897-4971.
"We also need to thank the doctors and staff at New Leaf Center," Paula said. "There have been numerous people who have assisted and have helped."