Fire took all but him

Jesse Dodson, 78, stands in the doorway of what had been his Perry County home for 37 years until fire swept through his residence in mid-September.

THORNVILLE — Fire swept through a Township Road 32 residence on Sept. 15, taking everything except the lone resident’s life. Jesse Dodson, 78, has lived at the 7241 Twp. Rd 32 location since 1987. The house and its contents were a total loss despite the best efforts of the firefighters on the scene.

A smoke detector wired into the electrical system awakened Dodson from a brief after-dinner nap in his recliner. Firefighters determined the blaze was a grease fire caused by an unattended burner left in the on position. When the smoke detector alerted Dodson, the house was full of smoke and he could feel the heat from the flames behind his recliner.

Dodson escaped the fire, but re-entered the house to retrieve his wallet. “I should never have gone back in there for that wallet, but I did,” said Dodson. However, everything else in the house was destroyed. Food, clothing, photos, and every item that creates the memories that transform a house into a home, went up in flames.

However, the nightmare of watching his home burn was just the start of an ordeal that has left Dodson struggling to resume his life. Because his only income is a monthly social security check for $778, Dodson has had to make several difficult budget decisions. Food, medical prescriptions, and utilities make quick work of Dodson’s finances so he made the decision to let his house insurance lapse prior to the fire.

Family members contacted the Red Cross for assistance, but the financial help from the organization would cover only a three-day stay at a motel as well as a three-day stipend for Dodson’s medication needs. Friends of the family have donated clothing, but housing is the biggest need right now. Dodson is temporarily staying with his daughter, Jackie Lama, in Pleasantville.

Dodson’s niece, Tonya Troidl, has become the tip of the spear when it comes to helping her uncle. She has found a house trailer in Cambridge, Ohio, has arranged for the charred remains of the burned house to be razed and hauled away, and has set up a GoFundMe page.

“People are coming forward to help us with materials so Jesse’s biggest needs are financial right now,” says Tonya.

Also lending a hand to cover basic needs is the Perry County Jobs & Family Services (JFS). The director, Cheryl Boley, says that the agency will be contacting the family to see what services and immediate needs the JFS can provide.

Standing in the yard where she had called home as a child, Jackie Lama, said of her father, “he lost 37 years of memories in the fire,” but Jesse quickly corrected her.

“I lost 78 years,” said Jesse, referring to keepsakes, photos, and every possession that had any meaning.

For now, a Perry County resident has lost everything he owned to a devastating fire. He barely escaped with his life. And he is in need of help. A house is our primary shelter, but it is so much more. It’s a warehouse that holds memories, the echoes of laughter from the good times, and the tear stains from the tough ones.

For 78-year-old Jesse Dodson, that shelter is gone but he still owns the ground where his family planted the live Christmas trees from that precious holiday. All he wants from this life is to be able to spend his remaining time on the ground that means so much to him.

He is a Perry County citizen, and he needs some help. If you can, please do. The GoFundMe site is sr.sit.lostitall. And thank you.

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