The year 2020 has been awful — in some way or another — for just about everyone.
But Kathi and Mark Walden of Hoquiam have really taken the brunt of it.
Kathi, a longtime employee at Grocery Outlet in Aberdeen, has been battling pancreatic cancer since May of 2018, and while that has taken a huge physical and mental toll, the straw that almost broke the proverbial camel’s back came a couple of weeks ago. That’s when they were awakened in the wee hours of the morning and their Monroe Street house was on fire.
“They lost everything in the fire,” said Lin Messerer, a longtime friend of the Waldens and owner of Tropical Tanning Salon & Boutique in Hoquiam, where she has been taking donations to help the couple out. “Right now, more than anything, they need a place to live, and Kathi doesn’t know what to do. Obviously, they need a place as soon as possible. The challenge is getting her a place to be where she feels comfortable, so she can keep doing her chemotherapy.”
When a Daily World reporter talked to Kathi Walden earlier this week, she sounded strong, but was obviously stressed by the situation. But she was in a good mood, as the couple had just acquired a new vehicle, because both of theirs were lost in the fir.
“It’s absolutely been crazy,” she said.
She described the night of the fire as “just horrible — horrible.”
She said the couple’s dog, Whiskey, originally woke them up barking, but Kathi figured it was just an animal outside “or something like that.”
But when an agitated Whiskey jumped on the bed and would not leave, that’s when the couple realized their house was ablaze and got out of there with Whiskey and just the few things they could grab while bolting out the door.
Whiskey ended up being a hero that night.
“I don’t think Kathi or Mark would be here today without him,” Messerer said of the faithful pooch.
Should anyone have a place for the Waldens and Whiskey, a fenced yard would be preferred but is not necessary.
Also lost in the fire were all of Mark’s prized woodworking tools, He’s retired, but used to fashion quality, handmade wooden boxes in his workshop to supplement the couple’s income. That revenue stream disappeared in the fire also.
So far, Kathi, Mark and Lin have all been impressed with the help pouring in from community members, but that place to live is now the couple’s main priority.
“I cannot believe how great this community has been to us,” said Kathi. “No matter how hard things are on the Harbor, people here give to people in need — and I greatly appreciate it.”
The Waldens have insurance, but Kathi said she has no idea if and when their home can be rebuilt. But the insurance will cover rent and move-in costs in the time being.
If you have a place to rent and can help out the Waldens — and hero dog Whiskey — give Lin Messerer a call at 360-637-9182.