Jeff family deals with loss of house and more
By Jeanne Sager
NORTH BRANCH Angie Keser tries to be strong for her girls.
But when the mother of three steps outside the temporary apartment they’ve called home since a fire claimed their house last month, she shakes her head.
“The hardest part is to lose everything,” she said, her head shaking.
Keser doesn’t cry. She doesn’t have to.
Her face carries the sadness of the loss of a little girl several years ago to SIDS, and the loss of the family’s home on Sunday, Nov. 16.
She misses life in Jeffersonville.
Without a car, Keser has always walked the streets of the village with her kids to get whatever she needed.
Until recently, her husband was working and she was able to stay home with their girls in the doublewide trailer the couple put in on their lot on the island.
Raised in Monticello, Keser moved to Jeffersonville in 1992 shortly after graduating from Monticello High School.
Her sister was renting an apartment in the village, and she moved in with her.
Keser has lived on the little lot on the island since 1995, when she got married. The couple put in a new house in 2000.
It’s where they’ve raised their girls, Kelly, Hailey and Emily.
Keser had filled out the paperwork for the county’s HEAP program, but when she was told a delivery of kerosene would be delayed a week, she decided to plug an electric heater in to keep the family warm.
For two days, she ran it by day and pulled the plug at night.
Her daughters worried, but Keser said she had no choice.
“We had to be warm,” she said.
As long as the heater was off at night while the family slept, Keser thought it would be OK.
But on Sunday, the 16th, it was only 6 p.m. when she walked out of the girls’ room and smelled smoke.
“I was all the way on the other end of the house,” she said. “I came out, and it was black.”
She rushed her daughters out of the house and ran to neighbor Miguel Flores’ house.
Flores’ ran into the Keser house. He threw the heater outside. He grabbed a bag of pictures.
But it was too late. Even the portions of the house saved from the flames by the Jeffersonville Fire Department were damaged heavily by smoke.
Keser went back in to retrieve some Christmas presents, a few odds and ends. But her asthmatic daughter coughed and sputtered from contact with the smoke-laden contents.
“There wasn’t much I could save,” Keser said with a sigh.
Her dad took her in for a few days, but he lives in Liberty and scarcely had room for the extra family.
Then came the offer from the Pastor Kit Robison of the Lutheran churches in Jeffersonville and North Branch. He could offer her an apartment for a little while, at least until she got back on her feet.
Keser said it was a weight lifted, and it put the family within walking distance of the resting place of her baby girl. They’ve made frequent visits in the past few days to the cemetery.
But Keser doesn’t want to live off the church for any longer than she has to.
With no fire insurance on their house, she knows she has to find another place until somehow they can save money to replace the burnt out shell.
She wants to get back into Jeffersonville so she can find a job with no car, she needs to be within walking distance of an employer.
She wants to get back to a community she says has become her home, a place where people have reminded her since her tragedy that small town life is the life worth living.
Robison isn’t the only one who has stepped in. She got a call the other day that someone at the First National Bank of Jeffersonville has set up a fund in her name.
The bank employee asked to go unnamed, but she said she’s seen Keser in Jeffersonville with her daughters for years.
She’s part of the fabric of the village, the woman said, helping her is part of making the village a better place.
“I was shocked,” Keser said of the bank fund. “I’m surprised at how much people help out when you need it.”
“You don’t know until something bad happens,” added Kelly, Keser’s 11-year-old daughter. “People are really nice.”
So far the family has gotten enough clothing in donations to last them for awhile. The thrift store run by the Lutheran church has helped Keser with some of her odds and ends as well.
Still, she needs blankets and pillows, towels, furniture and the other pieces that make a home.
With Christmas coming, Keser says she’s doing the best she can to give her kids a holiday.
“The hardest thing,” she said, “you’ve got to start over… 2009 better come quick.”
To help the Kesers, donations to the Angie Keser Fire Fund can be made at any branch of the First National Bank of Jeffersonville.