GRAFTON TWP. — When the Hamilton family left to buy Halloween costumes Oct. 30, 2005, they never expected that their lives would be turned on end.
When they returned from shopping, the home owned by Duane Hamilton's father had been consumed by flames. Damage was estimated at $220,000.
Duane and Cheryl Hamilton and their six children, then aged 2 to 12, lost nearly everything. And even though Duane's father owned the home, he still had a mortgage on it.
"When it burned, he didn't want to rebuild," Cheryl Hamilton said.
The Hamiltons received a $50,000 insurance settlement for their possessions and slowly are trying to build a home on the same lot.
"We've got a start on it, but there's a lot of work to do," Cheryl said.
Fortunately, Duane Hamilton is a carpenter. Plus, friends and some kind-hearted businesses came to the family's aid.
The house package was supplied at a substantial discount by 84 Lumber. MPW Construction Services helped out the couple with cut rates as did Mack Concrete.
"We're really grateful for all the help," Duane Hamilton said.
Now the house at 18574 state Route 57 is framed and has a roof, which is a big relief, the Hamiltons said.
At least to start with, the kids, Serena, 13, Ryan, 12, Caitlynn, 11, Madison, 6, Garrett, 5, and Sidney, 3, will double up in bedrooms, according to Cheryl. But when extra bedrooms are finished in the basement, the family expects the older children to gravitate there, their mother said.
For the time, the family is living with friends in Elyria. Doing without a home for a year and a half isn't easy, but kindness from a stranger helped buffer that blow, too.
The family's two parrots perished in the blaze, and a lovable St. Bernard named Bailey died a few weeks later in the care of another animal lover.
"The way he was wheezing we think it was smoke inhalation," Cheryl Hamilton said.
When news of Bailey's death leaked out, a kind heart reached out again.
Cheri Bernath of Middleburg Heights donated a male puppy named Archie. The dog comforted the family, but it hasn't been easy owning a dog - particularly a St. Bernard - when you don't even have a home, Cheryl Hamilton said.
That's especially true when that dog has somewhat of a mischievous nature.
"Archie's still a big puppy," Cheryl said.