By the end of the month, two people who lost their homes along the North Fork of the Big Thompson in the 2013 flood, Bus Tarbox and Joyce Kilmer, will be neighbors once again.
The two are soon to be neighbors in homes assembled with the help of Loveland Habitat for Humanity. A crowd of about 40 that included Loveland city councilman Ralph Trenary, who lived near Tarbox and Kilmer before their homes were destroyed while his was spared, gathered Saturday at Raven Place off of St. Louis Avenue to celebrate the groundbreaking on each of these homes.
“Today is a day of healing and new beginnings,” said Gwen Stephenson, executive director of Loveland Habitat for Humanity. “The flood was a great tragedy in our community, but it brought our community together.”
Kilmer lost everything but the clothes on her back in the flood when the river swept her house away, including her art studio full of paintings, sculptures and materials for crafting. But she is excited for her new home to finally be completed so she can resume her artistry, using the garage as a studio. She plans to enter her work in a September show in Grand Rapids, Mich. The winner will receive $250,000, Kilmer explained in an interview as she crossed her fingers.
Tarbox was able to salvage only his most-treasured possession after the flood: a Kimball grand piano that he says he played four to five times per day.
“You can tell me when to quiet down, I’ll shut the window,” Tarbox said to a future neighbor in the crowd at Raven Place.
Tarbox has been living with his two grandsons since the flood, but frequently visits Kilmer and his piano in her rented living space. She assisted recovering and restoring the instrument from flood damage. He is looking forward to the day he can have the piano back in his own home.
“It’s just a miracle,” Tarbox said of finally having a new home of his own. “You don’t expect to be back to the way you were.”
Trenary also stood before those gathered holding hands with his two former neighbors along the river.
“The losses and heartfelt pain that has been felt and is being worked through — I hope for all of us to a large degree — will be resolved by seeing two fine homes built here, by seeing two friends making a new start,” he said.
The two modular homes are being delivered from Albuquerque, possibly as soon as the end of next week, before finishing touches are made and the houses are placed on their foundations, according to Sarah Porro of the Long Term Recovery Group, which has assisted in flood relief.
Trenary expressed contentment with the project nearing completion for multiple reasons.
“It’s exciting on a personal level because of how long I’ve know Bus and Joyce,” Trenary said in an interview. “And it’s exciting on a professional level and official level because every time Habitat closes a project like this, it shows what an asset it is to the city of Loveland. Habitat is a consistent, reliable partner for affordable housing.”
Tarbox hopes he can continue to put on musical performances for Kilmer when they’re next-door neighbors — perhaps in exchange for some of her home cooking.
“The thing is, he doesn’t cook, he can’t cook, and he says ‘Now I can come right next door and eat dinner,'” Kilmer joked at Tarbox. “He does come by once in a while and I feed him.”
“I can play the piano lots better than I work the microwave,” Tarbox said with a chuckle.
Sam Lounsberry, 635-3691. On Twitter: @SamLounz.