Like a phoenix, wedding ring rises from ashes


story tease

By BILLY LUDT

bludt@vindy.com

CANFIELD

Roan Winchester said a little prayer in his head with each bucketful of rubble he dumped through a grate he and his father-in-law made: “Little flower, in this hour, show your power.”

The two, along with some help from Lewis Construction of Warren, spent three days sifting through fire debris this way.

The phrase was something Dr. Tara Winchester picked up from a patient. She was told as long as you repeat the prayer, it’ll help you find what you’re looking for. So she gave the words to her husband.

At the end of that third day, with a small pile of debris remaining, Roan dumped another bucket load of remains. He said the prayer to himself one more time, and it appeared.

Sitting among the burnt wood and belongings was Tara’s wedding ring.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

The main diamond was missing, but Tara wasn’t bothered. She said they’re not going to look for it. She was happy the ring was found where her 6,600-square-foot, $1 million home once stood.

ICE AND FIRE

The Winchesters’ Montereale Drive home caught fire about 3 a.m. Jan. 2. The fire started in the home’s garage, and by the time Cardinal Joint Fire District firefighters arrived it spread to the house.

The single-digit temperatures that morning froze fire hoses, and the high winds fed the flames.

“Literally all I cared about was getting the family out alive,” Roan said.

They were awakened by the house’s security system. Fire alarm sounding, Roan walked downstairs to investigate. He opened a door and was met with a cloud of black smoke.

Roan ran back upstairs, rounded up his family, grabbed shoes and coats for everyone and got outside.

Standing across the street, Tara, Roan and their two sons watched their home be overtaken by flames.

The house was declared a total loss.

SOME THINGS FOUND

Tara, who works as a surgeon, kept her wedding ring at home on the bathroom counter. All of the remaining stones in the band were ones she was given by her grandmother.

“I had this black ring on my finger,” she said. “I wore that ring all night long.”

It was one of three items Roan set out to find in the remains of their home. The other two were a hard drive that contains tens of thousands of family photos and a safe.

“In a loss such as this that is so devastating, most people would never attempt to look or even request to look for something specific, especially something small as a wedding ring,” said Kevin Wyndham, vice president of business development for Lewis Construction.

But the request to find certain items after a fire is still common, Wyndham said.

Luck was on the Winchesters’ side, however.

Roan knew where the items were at in the house at the time of the fire, so he had an idea of where to look for them in the debris.

“The odds of finding some things that were salvageable in the basement were higher than you think,” Wyndham said. “The basement was never actually on fire. The only thing that would ruin it at that point was if it were struck by debris or water.”

Roan found all three. Neither fire, water nor rubble ruined the ring, the drive, or the safe.

REBUILDING

Life hasn’t stopped for the Winchesters after the fire.

“It’s getting better,” Roan said. “It comes in waves, and you have to deal with stuff. It’s getting less painful every day.”

Tara remains busy with work, and Roan is taking care of their sons as a full-time dad and getting their insurance squared away.

They’ll celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in June, and plan to have Tara’s ring cleaned.

The family currently lives in a condominium while they prepare to rebuild their home.

“It didn’t even cross our minds to not rebuild,” Tara said.

The plan is for the home’s exterior to look the same, with some adjustments on the inside, including extra fire-prevention measures.

“It just affects your life when these kinds of tragedies happen, and it changes your attitudes and thinking,” Roan said.

When the plans are finalized, the new home on where their old home stood will take about a year to build. In the meantime, the Winchesters are taking everything a day at a time.

“You learn what’s important. We have two kids to take care of. We’ll just make new memories and get new stuff,” Tara said. “We’re still parents. You can’t stop.”

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