Fred Gregg nearly lost his wife a second time last weekend.
The couple spent nearly 30 years together, the last four of them married. On Feb. 12, the couple’s anniversary, Holly Gregg died in her sleep.
Ten months later, a fire razed the Gregg family’s Frederickson-area home.
Early Dec. 14, the two-alarm fire engulfed the house and most of the family’s belongings — including an urn that held Holly Gregg’s ashes.
“She was my world,” he said of his wife.
The cause and estimated damage from the fire has not been determined, but Graham Fire Chief Ryan Baskett said officials ruled the home a total loss.
Gregg, 54, cares for his 80-year-old mother as well as his son’s friend, who recently started living with the family at the 3,000-square-foot house.
All of them except for his mother were home the night of the fire, and Gregg went to Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup with minor injuries.
Now, the Greggs are left picking up the pieces and neighbors want to help. They’ve started a crowd-funding website to relocate Gregg, who didn’t have renter’s insurance, and his family.
“You don’t plan for any of these events,” he said. “The neighbors have been just incredible.”
Gregg and his 20-year-old son, Lewis, spent much of last week rummaging through debris to salvage what they can.
Standing in front of his former residence Thursday, Gregg was in disbelief about what has happened this year.
Surveying the debris strewn over the property, he stood over a basket holding the charred remnants of the urns that held the remains of his wife and father. Gregg, holding back tears, said recovering some of them is better than having nothing at all.
A small storage unit holds the rest of the family’s recovered belongings.
The Red Cross helped with temporary lodging, and the family has been staying at a nearby hotel until they can find a new place to live. Gregg said it was tough to find affordable hotel rates during the holiday season.
Finding the family a new home is a top priority for neighbor Eric Langi, who launched the gofundme.com fundraiser for the Greggs. The campaign had raised more than $2,300 Friday.
Langi, who didn’t know the family before the fire, said he’s been looking at several rentals and is helping Gregg sort through the options.
But the fund raising won’t stop there, he said.
“I definitely want to keep it open,” Langi said. “They’re still going to need a lot of things.”
Langi said he admires Gregg’s humble attitude. He said Gregg tried returning money that neighbors donated for food and clothes.
Langi doesn’t want Gregg to feel ashamed of getting help.
“I would hope that if this happened to me, somebody out there would do the same,” he said.
Beyond donating money, Gregg said, neighbors have brought him clothes and hot plates of food, among other items.
Moving forward, he wants to take good care of his family in honor of his wife. He said dealing with the aftermath of the fire has been jarring, but his biggest tragedy was losing the love of his life.
“It’s been one hell of a year,” he said.