Kathy Free is still dealing with the extensive damage caused to her home from the Aug. 20 wind storm that ravaged New London.
She is a resident of the 5th ward, at 903 W. North Water Street and known by neighborhood kids as “the witch lady” because she sets up a free haunted tunnel in her yard for Halloween each year.
All she asked for in return was a donation for the food pantry. Last year she delivered an entire van full of food to help the needy.
The neighborhood will be without spooky music and gruesome getups this year, because the “witches house” is coming down. Part of it anyway. Two huge maple trees fell on the one-story section of her home Aug. 20, and crashed through the roof as she and her husband were in the home. Free’s sister, who is wheel-chair bound, was pushed into the adjoining bathroom as Free saw the trees coming down.
“It was a sound I’ll never forget. And I’d never seen my husband’s face look the way it did that day. He was one lucky man.” That’s because the second tree that came down was buffered by a third tree, a much smaller pine, that forced the big maple to roll to the right and miss the section of house he was sitting in. It may possibly have made the roof collapse altogether.
The family was trapped in the house until neighbors came to the rescue and Ed Bellile pulled them out a first story window.
The family is living with Free’s son for now, glad not to be living out of a hotel. “He knows I’d do it for his family,” said Free.
Tree removal was paid for by the city because the trees that came down were on the curb, and after two months of dealing with insurance claims and city ordinance review, Free says they have a plan for the rebuild.
She’s disappointed that she can’t show the neighborhood a good time for Halloween, because her family does it together and works for three weeks preparing the tents and elaborate sets. She hopes the food pantry will receive donations from people who have come to the “Bloody Fifth” in years past.
“Hopefully we’ll be in the middle of construction by Halloween,” says Free. “I’m hoping to move back in by Christmas.”