Rebecca and James Cooper were in the mountains just before Thanksgiving for their son’s wedding.
It was a happy time in their lives until they received a call from a neighbor. Their home in Pineywoods was engulfed in flames. Firefighters were in route.
They listened to the play-by-play of their home burning over their cell phone. They felt helpless because they were five hours away. Losing a home any time of year is brutal, but losing your home during the holidays deepens the bruise.
Argo and Town Creek volunteer fire departments responded and pumped over 12,000 gallons of water on the structure to try and put out the fire.
Firemen broke through a bedroom window trying to save Max, the Cooper’s beloved dog of 12 years. The traumatized dog ran under the bed. That’s where he died.
“Max was a part of our family,” said Cooper. Mrs. Cooper smiled as she said, “I told the kids that they would get kicked out of the house before I kick Max out. Any time I was sick or had surgery, Max was right there. He was a mama’s baby."
When firemen told the Coopers the home was a total loss, they decided to stay in Tennessee for the wedding.
“When we realized we’d lost our home, there were no words to describe how we felt. We just held onto each other and cried,” said James Cooper.
Cooper’s brother and another friend went to the house afterward and managed to toss a few things out the window. They grabbed some pictures, a couple of Cooper’s guns, and Mrs. Cooper’s charred jewelry box.
What added to the hurt was that Mrs. Cooper’s mother had passed away during the summer.
“I had everything of hers in this house. Childhood memories, pictures, and everything,” Mrs. Cooper said.
The family had dwelling insurance but none on the contents. Piled outside the house, are mounds of belongings burned so badly it’s difficult to determine what they are.
They are currently living with their oldest son whose wedding they’d attended. “Right now, we’re just taking things one day at a time,” she said.
The Coopers have looked at mobile homes, but none of them came close to the home they lost.
“We had five bedrooms and three baths in this home,” she said as she pointed to the rubble. “We just can’t be satisfied right now. Nothing’s home."
When asked about the hardest part, Mrs. Cooper swept her arm across the piles of chard debris that were pieces of her life and said, “Losing your home.”
The coming holidays will be difficult, according to Mrs. Cooper. Each holiday, the kids came to her house. This year she won’t have a kitchen to cook a ham and a turkey for them.
The Coopers have four children. The youngest graduated this year from Sumiton Christian. He joined the Army and will be heading out soon. They also have full custody of their 1-year-old granddaughter. “We were supposed to have her birthday party today, but we canceled that,” Mrs. Cooper said.
The Coopers are grateful to the firemen who responded and did their best to save their home.
“The neighbors said the two fire departments worked hard to try and save the house, but it was too far gone when they arrived,” Cooper said.
Donations for the Coopers can be dropped off at the law office of Lee Tucker and Stephen Gravlee, David’s Florist, or Fluffy Tales Pet Grooming, all of which are in Sumiton.