Rising from the ashes: Woman rebuilding life
BY DEON HAMPTON World Staff Writer
Saturday, December 06, 2008
12/07/12 at 1:11 PM
Satisfied but lonely, the middle-age widow has resettled into her once-gutted home.
It's quiet. Her adult grandchildren aren't lounging around the kitchen or creating racket in the guest bedroom.
The silence is louder whenever Lynda Salter's late husband comes to mind. The conversations about their long courtship are gone. So, too, are the little things he did to make her blush.
Salter, 58, is again living in her two-bedroom home, which burned to the ground the day after Christmas last year.
Racing from the home and avoiding the smoke is her lasting memory of the life-altering moment.
It wasn't the holiday present she wanted Santa Claus to bring.
As Salter recently walked into her fully refurbished home, she looked through a curtain-less window. She then walked into her bedroom and sat on the thin red and gold blanket across the bed.
She thought of her husband, Willie Salter Jr., 71, who died the day before Valentine's Day from respiratory problems stemming from emphysema.
The couple were married for seven years and dated for 12 years.
"Can I handle it?" Salter wondered. "Staying in a house by myself?"
She answered her question a week later when she again thought of her late husband as she saw her new home.
"I wish he was here to see all of this," she said. "I never would have dreamed my house would be a new house."
The yearlong spiral of misfortune hit the Salter family after an ice storm slammed the Tulsa area last December, leaving the family without heat and power for weeks.
A tree had fallen on an electrical line, exposing wires. A fire gutted the home three days after an electrician repaired their meter. The wires connected to the home had been left bare, igniting the fire on Dec. 26, Salter said.
The couple, who took care of their four grandchildren, were homeless and temporarily moved in with neighbors. Less than two months later, Willie Salter died.
The couple's home insurance provided Lynda Salter with about $33,000 to fix the ice storm-related damage. In August, she paid an independent contractor $20,000 for the repairs.
But the contractor left town with the money and without doing the repairs.
Salter has filed a police report about the contractor.
Members of The Commonwealth, a group of local contractors and builders who do charity work, learned about Salter's story and wanted to help her.
The group joined with the Tulsa Dream Center, a nonprofit arm of Victory Christian Center, to remodel her home for free.
On Wednesday, Johnny Lamb, who owns Johnny Lamb Dry Wall, was at Salter's home to do a final sweep of the house, already equipped with leather chairs, a beige couch and a kitchen table that seats eight people.
"We just came out to help for a good cause," Lamb said.
Deon Hampton 581-8413
Lynda Salter is moving back into her refurbished home after a year-long spiral of misfortune starting with a fire related to last December's ice storm. The Commonwealth and Tulsa Dream Center repaired her home for free. SHERRY BROWN/Tulsa World