Steamboat Springs After being homeless for nearly a year, Kathy Foos finally was back at home on Haymeadow Lane, south of Phippsburg, just in time for Thanksgiving.
"It feels real. It's kind of a shock," Foos said Wednesday, sitting on the porch of her home with her 23-month-old grandson, T.J. Larsson.
"Finally, Kathy's drama is over," she said.
Foos' former home on Haymeadow Lane burned to the ground on Dec. 11, 2007. Foos, her son, Jules Hedemark, and T.J. narrowly escaped the blaze, though her dogs, cats and nearly all the family's possessions were lost.
Foos began moving into her new home Nov. 21, after receiving her certificate of occupancy for the doublewide modular home donated by a construction company in Edwards. Coolers full of her grandson's toys sat in the living room Wednesday, still waiting to be unpacked, though Foos already had personalized her new house with a bright green exterior paint job.
In addition to unpacking, the family still has some finishing touches to do to the property, including finishing the roof, doing dirt work and cleaning up the lot.
"Your logs are in my way, Mom," Foos' son Titus Larsson said jokingly, dissatisfied with how he had to park his truck Wednesday after arriving at the house with new fans and space heaters.
Despite securing the house shortly after the fire,
it took nearly a year to get the dwelling moved to her property and install all the utilities, a process that included digging a well for water and setting up a leach field for her septic system.
"That's part of what was so hard," Foos said. "But I succeeded - I was beginning to wonder myself, if it would ever happen."
The pump station for the new house - in matching green paint - sits on the foundation remnants of her former house, where the front door used to be.
The mortgage on Foos' former home had been paid off, but her homeowner's insurance payments lapsed earlier in 2007, after Jules sustained serious brain injuries in a car accident on Routt County Road 25 west of Phippsburg.
He spent nearly a month hospitalized on the Front Range after the May 20, 2007, crash.
Only a month later, on June 23, 2007, Foos' 17-year-old son, Sam Hedemark, was killed in an oil tank explosion near Rio Blanco County's Chapman Reservoir.
The explosion occurred during a party attended by about 20 people in the Routt National Forest. It also claimed the life of 19-year-old Chris Fuller.
Although Foos said it was hard at times to keep her spirits up, her compassion for others and her sense of humor continued to shine through.
She was quick to sympathize with the hundreds of people who lost their homes to recent wildfires in Southern California and to credit everyone who lent her their support.
"I feel bad for all the people in California whose homes have burned," Foos said. "With everybody's help, it still made it possible for me to get back - no insurance, no help from FEMA."
The day before Thanksgiving, Foos said she had just gotten off the phone with her insurance company, giving them her certificate of occupancy for her new homeowner's policy.
"I'd make a good insurance commercial," Foos said, with an exasperated laugh.
It takes a community
Much of the work, equipment and materials for her new house were donated, Foos said.
"Everyone has helped out as much as they can. Even those who couldn't feasibly provide services for free discounted them as much as they could," Foos said.
Foos paid the electrician who worked on the new house in "Foos Rolls" - the potato crescent rolls for which she's famous.
Since the fire, Foos estimated she had received about $20,000 in donations to help her rebuild her house and her life - and that does not include all the in-kind donations and personal assistance she's received.
Foos declined to start naming those have helped her during the past year, saying it would "take pages and pages" and for fear that she would forget someone.
Foos has taken time to send handwritten thank-you notes to everyone this year and has kept all the letters of support she has received.
After the fire, Foos stayed at The Royal Motel - where she now works - free of charge for a month. She then stayed with friends in Yampa until May, and also with Larsson and his family. When it was warm enough during the summer, Foos and her son stayed at a woodstove-heated "sheep camp trailer" on her Phippsburg lot - a residence she looked forward to leaving behind.
In trying to salvage the site after the snow melted in the spring, Foos was able to recover only a few charred items from the ruins, including a ring and tie clasp that belonged to her grandfather and a pin passed down through the family from her great-grandmother. She gingerly pulled them out of safekeeping envelopes to show them off.
"I can't believe I found it - I've had this since I was a little girl," she said, fingering the pin. "It made it! Nothing made it."
- To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org