“Three stories, huh? Wow.”
“Yeah, and then a little, like, a half-story on top.”
This conversation between two onlookers served as an impromptu eulogy for the house that Dorothy Torres lived in with her son; a house she hoped would bring happiness into people’s lives.
Torres operates Castle Ministries in Willow, Alaska, with her husband, Reverend Raymond, and Reverend Anne Marie.
“She was known for travelling to any place in Alaska to do marriages. People wanting to get married on Flat Top, in Girdwood, Thunderbird Falls,” her son, Tony, told me. The house in Willow, which they had been building, brick by brick, for the past ten years, “was what they were hoping to finally have finished so it could be one more place in Alaska to have that [perfect] wedding at.”
Monday morning, Torres was making breakfast for her son, Nathan.
The two were eating in the northeast corner of the home just before 10:30 a.m., when a smoke detector activated. The mother opened a door to another part of the home and smoke came billowing out, prompting her to take the child and leave.
In the blink of an eye, the house was engulfed in flames.
“It was a total loss. They had no insurance because it was an unfinished structure. They were building it out of pocket,” Acting Willow Fire Chief Bill Gamble told the Frontiersman.
Dorothy’s son, Tony Jager, corroborated Gamble’s lament: “They lived in the ground level. It served as their house and their dream for the future. It’s all ash, man. All the way down to the stone basement.”
He said that the Red Cross is “taking care of the first 72 hours and have gotten them some emergency kits.” But he’s worried about that 73rd hour, and all that come after.
“At this point I’m just trying to bring attention to it and build them a strong foundation.”
To do that, Jager set up a local fund to help his family get back on their feet:
Tragically on July 1st in the early morning, a fire raged to life and destroyed everything my family had. My Mother, Dorothea, and baby brother, Nathan made it out safely. But only to watch as the house they had been building out of pocket for close to 10 years had been consumed in flames. Please give want you can, even if it is only moral support to a wonderful family hit by unexpected tragedy.
When I asked Tony tonight about why he had set up the fund, he sent this reply:
Feeling almost unable to help my own family, I knew this was one project I could undertake to possibly make a difference. My mom has used that business to bring a lot of happiness to the community and to people from the lower 48 wanting to get married in some of our beautiful locations. My dad commutes to town, works from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. 6 days a week at an auto shop in Anchorage to support my family. They are really good people, they mean the world to me, and they had their world taken away from them. I just want to do what I can to help give it back to them.
Tony is an old friend of mine. His mother officiated the marriage of one of our staff members. This was a big fire in a small state, and some good people need our help. Please consider doing what you can, and passing it on for others to see. It would mean a lot to Tony, to the Torres family, and to all of us here at Alaska Commons.
CLICK HERE for info on how you can help.