Saturday, March 02, 2002

They left, came back

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FALMOUTH, Ky. — In the Lonaker home on Rigg Street, there was 38 inches of water on the floor. Upstairs.

        Steve and Donna, now married 25 years, took the federal government's offer of a buyout. They moved to a neighboring town, looked around, looked back. And returned to Falmouth to rebuild, without the buyout.

        “I got to thinking,” Mr. Lonaker explained, “I told my wife, a tornado can come and blow us over a hillside. As far as I'm concerned, without the help of the Christian people around me, I don't believe I would have made it back here.”

        They did.

        They reconstructed virtually everything from wall to ceiling. They now have flood insurance, which they didn't have in 1997. But it will never cover the invaluables.

        Mrs. Lonaker, a police dispatcher and lifelong Falmouth resident, fell the night of the flood. The back and leg injuries she suffered left her unable to work. Mr. Lonaker, a foreman, was forced to retire after stress-related seizures.

        “I thank God I'm alive,” Mrs. Lonaker said, “so I accept the way we are now.”

        The older of their two sons, Donnie, who turned 22 on Thursday, was 17 then. He quit school and got a job to support the family. FEMA provided money for furniture and clothes.

        Among their biggest loss: family photos.

        “I took everything for granted then,” Mrs. Lonaker said. “I don't now.”


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