Friends ease the pain of the Ganz family's loss
What was to have been a joyous weekend came to an abrupt end Saturday morning for Mike and Evonne Ganz and their three children.
They were at Mike's parents' house in Waupun celebrating an early Christmas with his sister visiting from Oregon when their neighbor called from the town of Troy to report that their house was burning.
"We had four hours to think about it coming back," Evonne said. "And I thought, you know, it's not heart-wrenching. It's not like somebody died. It's just very disappointing to lose things."
They lost just about everything in the blaze, but for an amazing number of photographs that somehow escaped the flames.
"That's our little miracle in there," Evonne said Monday afternoon, pointing to the photographs drying on lawn furniture in the haymow of their barn.
Family friends were picking through rubble of what had been their house, looking for anything of value before it was covered by the snow that was expected to fall later that evening.
The Ganzes' 16-year-old daughter, Alicia, approached excitedly carrying a partially charred book. It was Evonne's yearbook from Waupun High School, where she and Mike were sweethearts.
Her eyes became watery when she opened it by chance to the page on which Mike had written a long letter, closing with "Love always."
It's hard losing all your possessions, especially items of sentimental value, Evonne admitted. But, "you realize it's about people and stuff. It's not about things."
The many friends that have offered care and support helped her to realize that, she said.
On Sunday, fellow members at First Presbyterian Church of Hudson took up a special collection for them. St. Paul's Episcopal Church, First Baptist and a Minnesota church also provided financial assistance.
Around 75 people turned out for an impromptu potluck dinner with them Sunday evening at First Presbyterian.
Rich and Sheryl Lindholm, who winter in Florida, turned their home in Hudson over to the Ganz family.
Alicia's and Amber's friends were waiting at the fire scene when the family arrived there Saturday night. The twins are juniors at Hudson High School.
Sunday and Monday, teams of volunteers poked through the debris, looking for anything of value. John Gaffer brought his RV to the homestead so people would have a place to warm up.
"People have been so good, it's hard to feel too bad," Evonne said.
She said the family plans to build another house on the property much like the one they lost.
Anyone wishing to help the Ganzes financially may send a check to First Presbyterian Church, 828 Third St., Hudson, WI 54016. Pastor David Liddle said the check should be made out to the church and the writer shouldn't write on the check that it is intended for the Ganz family. The writer should include a note designating the purpose of the donation, Liddle said.
Randy Hanson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.