When the waters receded after last June’s flood, all that could be saved of Shirley and Robert Ramsey’s home in Falling Rock was the red brick exterior and parts of the ceiling.
“The water was actually six feet high inside the house, and it sat like that for days before the water went down,” said John Brumley, a project manager and past president of the Home Builders Association of West Virginia. “Everything had to be taken out.”
Brumley and volunteers from the House Builders Association have spent the last five months rebuilding the home for Ramsey, a 90-year-old World War II veteran, and his wife.
“We have absolutely enjoyed working at this house,” Brumley said during a re-dedication and flag-raising ceremony at the house Wednesday. “A lot of people volunteered every hour.”
Besides the donated time, building materials were also donated, including the hot-water tank, kitchen cabinets, flooring and sub-flooring and paint, Brumley said.
Home Builders Association members and other volunteers put in new wiring, insulation and drywall as well as new lighting and doors, he said.
“It was a complete remake,” Brumley said. He estimated that $60,000 worth of materials was donated for the house, along with the free labor.
Brumley said the builders’ group has a history of helping people in need. The organization helped after previous flooding in West Virginia and along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, he said.
“We kind of feel like this is something we can do, that we can give back to our community by going ahead and volunteering for people who are not in a position to help themselves,” Brumley said.
When the water from the nearby river started coming up in their driveway that night in June, the Ramseys took shelter at a neighbor’s house, Shirley Ramsey said. The water got into the neighbor’s basement but stopped before getting into the main floor, she said.
In addition to the damage to their home and the loss of most everything in it, the Ramseys’ vehicle was ruined too.
“In the end we didn’t have no post office, no bank, no home,” she said.
She expressed her thanks to those who worked on the house after Wednesday’s ceremony.
“I just want to thank everybody for being so nice and wonderful,” Ramsey, 70, said. “There’s no words that can describe how I feel.”
Robert Ramsey, 90, earned two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, among other awards, for his service in the U.S. Army during World War II.
The Ramseys stayed a while with their son in Frame, and then moved to stay with their daughter in her Newton home, which is wheelchair-accessible, Shirley Ramsey said. Her husband uses a wheelchair but can walk with a walker when necessary, as it was the night of the flood.
The home is ready for the Ramseys to move back in, but Shirley Ramsey said they’ll have to buy new furniture to move into the home. Theirs was destroyed in the flood.
Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard, and several service members participated in the flag-raising ceremony at the Ramseys’ rebuilt home. Hoyer said even if the state weren’t dealing with flood recovery, the event would have been special because of the chance to honor Robert Ramsey’s service to the country.
“This is even more special because this is an opportunity to give back and to demonstrate that this state is still in recovery but is starting to do well and is resilient,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer said the Ramseys’ story is a good example of West Virginians helping each other.
“Now we’ve got one more West Virginia family moving back towards normalcy from the devastating floods,” he said.
Reach Lori Kersey at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-1240 or follow @LoriKerseyWV on Twitter.