Couple recovering from fire’s loss

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March 13, 2010 - 12:00 AM

LAHARPE — As crocuses begin to bloom and daffodils rise from recently frozen ground, one LaHarpe couple, too, is awakening from a dark state.
Robert McClanahan and Tawnya Roloff lost their small three-bedroom house to a fire in early fall.
Now, they have trays of flower seeds waiting to be planted on their new, four-acre plot just a block away from their former residence in south LaHarpe.
“Right now my niece has a horse out there,” McClanahan said. “She and her mom come over twice a day to take care of it.” The couple’s fully fenced pasture allows 7-year-old Kahlan Roloff to keep her Christmas filly, Paloma, near home.
Behind the pasture, a small pond is chirping with spring peepers. A side yard is fenced, ready for a garden.

SEVEN months ago, the duo found themselves awakened in the night engulfed by thick smoke.
A double layer of Sheetrock kept a fire, started where wiring was bad, from reaching the couple’s bedroom.
Due to the fire, they lost one of their cats, and McClanahan lost all his tools. He had been in the midst of a remodel when the house was gutted.
Though the couple received some help from the Red Cross, Roloff noted she could use some work clothes.
“I wear a 26-28 woman’s,” she said, adding it has been hard for her to find anything other than sweatpants or T-shirts on her very limited budget.
“It’s hard to go to job interviews without appropriate clothes,” she said. She would be happy with donations of used clothing.
“Ever since the fire, everything has gotten real bad,” she said. “I have arthritis in my spine,” and the stress seems to have worsened it, she added.
McClanahan is optimistic, though.
“Her parents helped us out a lot,” he said of Tim and Carol Roloff. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”
The couple stayed with her parents until they found another house to purchase, this one a two-bedroom trailer.
Roloff had known the former owner, who made them a generous offer.
Insurance money paid off what they owed on their former property, plus allowed purchase of the trailer.
Although it needs work — “there are soft spots in every floor,” McClanahan noted — the couple was moved in by Halloween, and held a big family gathering to thank everyone.
Family still visits frequently.
“We have a lot of company,” McClanahan said. “We could use a bigger couch.”
All the couple’s furniture is second-hand, they said.
But the new trailer is cozy. Tapestries and paintings decorate the walls. Roloff sits in a big, over-stuffed arm chair.
McClanahan hopes to pick up gardening and yard work now that his father-in-law gave him his older riding mower and pull-behind tiller. Foxglove, hollyhock and lupine seeds await planting. And their shy cat, Screech, has a small sun porch to retreat to when visitors arrive.
The couple never considered leaving LaHarpe, Roloff said.
“I grew up in this community. My grandfather was a judge here. Everybody knew my grandfather,” the late Clifford Warren Baysinger, she said.
And, McClanahan added, “We know the neighbors. We wouldn’t want to leave them.”

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