Monday, June 11, 2018
This column brings you greetings from Pat Deter, a former Cottage Grove resident, who is now living in Pahoa, Hawaii. I’ll let that sink in for a moment. Yes, she is now living in the small town on the big island next to the exploding Kilauea volcano. It began erupting in early May, destroying everything in its path including Pat’s new home and all her belongings. It shows no signs of stopping.
Pat and her husband Ralph were my CG neighbors but they raised their family in Whittier, Calif. Ralph was a lithographer and after serving in the Navy, he bought a print shop. Pat worked alongside him until she went to work as a bookkeeper for the Red Cross. She says that they brain washed her to become a volunteer!
In 1994, the couple retired, sold their business and moved to CG Lake. It wasn’t long before their little red car was zooming up and down the hill to volunteer tasks in town. They were members of Prospectors and Golddiggers who are known for raising money for non-profit organizations. Ralph belonged to the local Masonic Lodge and Pat, the Eastern Star. He was a driver for So. Lane Wheels; she was a hospital volunteer and a member of the Episcopal church. They were also excellent neighbors.
Ralph died suddenly in 2014. Pat continued to live in their house in the woods with her cats and a new dog. During this time, her daughters Debbie and Vickie moved to Hawaii and suggested that she do the same. It was tempting. Last year, at 88 years old, she made the decision to move and put her house on the market. It sold and she began preparations to move to paradise.
Moving to rabies-free Hawaii is complicated if you have animals. There are many hoops to jump through and it takes lots of dollars to prove that your pets are rabies free. Fortunately, Pat has the patience of a saint (and some good friends). She also had the foresight to buy a fully furnished house sight unseen. Then there was the garage sale of a lifetime and packing up the rest. Finally, she breathed a sigh of relief and boarded an airplane in March with her cats and dog for a new life of leisure on the big island. Or so she thought.
Hundreds of earthquakes woke up Pahoa in early May. Pat said the 6.9 quake really shook everyone up. Then the volcano blew up and massive lava flows began. The earthquakes continue to come every hour. Pat lived in Leilani Estates, one mile from the downhill lava flow. A voluntary evacuation was announced. Her daughter Vickie called her to pack an overnight bag—a change of clothes, robe, nightgown and medicine.
They were headed for her Vickie’s house on higher ground. Pat said it was like a war zone and they decided to leave the cats and pick them up the next day. Before they left there was a mandatory evacuation so the cats had to be pulled out from under the bed.
Later, a couple drove by her house and noticed the patio furniture on the lanai. They packed it all up including a large television and put it in storage at their house for her return. A local Eastern Star group gave her a generous contribution to buy clothes. Everyone was looking out for each other.
Suddenly, the lava came and destroyed her house. The last shipment of boxes from Oregon was unpacked prior to the lava flow. She lost everything. All important papers, birth certificates, banking information, phone numbers (no cell phone), computer were all gone. Most precious were her pictures of Ralph. Her granddaughter in Calif. put out a plea on Facebook for anyone who knew her grandparents and had photos of them to contact her. She’s had a good response.
New cracks bubbling with lava are everywhere. Housing is scarce. In some places, three families are crowded together under one roof. Amazingly, a lady Pat didn’t know offered to take her and her pets in to live with her for as long as needed. Her daughters and husbands are under evacuation and looking for housing.
Pat has not gone back to her former home site but she has been told that there is a lava wall eight feet high, that looks like black popcorn and is razor sharp. No house. Through it all, she has had a great attitude. How does she stay calm? Here’s what she said when I asked. Notice her sense of humor:
“There’s nothing I can do about it. There’s no end in sight. They can’t predict when it will stop. I’m grateful that I have my animals and a place to stay where I’m welcome as long as needed. My insurance is providing living expenses. I’m okay. And I have a whole new wardrobe.”
The real meaning of Aloha in Hawaiian
is that of Love, Peace, and Compassion.
“Aloha” to Pat and all those in Pahoa.
Contact Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox at email@example.com