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Benefit Concert For Johnson Family And Whispering Pines

Whispering-Pines-FundraiserBy: Peter Gibbs

Saturday, May 31 the Estes Park Historical Preservation Foundation is sponsoring a benefit concert for Whispering Pines and the Johnson family, Jon, Deyn, Ashlyn and Braeden. The concert will be held at Lonigans Grill and Pub from 8 to 10 p.m., and features local bands Rain-in-the-Face and The Namesinger Hallowed Ecstasy Project, and the Elemental Dancers. The $5 cover charge and voluntary donations all will go to benefit the Johnson family and Whispering Pines.

In FEMA’s first visit to Whispering Pines after the flood, “the inspector didn’t seem to have a lot of experience,” Deyn recalls. “The first thing he asked is if he could use our bathroom. I told him we didn’t have one working, and he just looked at me. ‘At this point, we just go behind a tree,’ I told him. After a looking around the property he said ‘Well, you know FEMA doesn’t provide assistance for commercial properties.’ ‘My family lives here,’” Deyn informed him. “’We have to replace the utilities – including the septic system – just for our family to live here, quite aside from anything commercial.” The bottom line: the Johnsons rebuilt the river shoreline on their property, cleaned up the wreckage and are rebuilding with minimal support from FEMA and other authorities, and maximal support from their friends and community.

The Johnsons – all four plus two cats – are currently living in Cottage 14. “It was our cat, Jezebel, that gave us our first warning that something was coming,” Deyn recalls. “She was going crazy…kept meowing, wouldn’t let up. We never got the reverse 911 calls.”

Three out of what were eleven cabins before the 2013 floods: that's how many Whispering Pines Cottages will have open this season.

Three out of what were eleven cabins before the 2013 floods: that’s how many Whispering Pines Cottages will have open this season.

“Right after the flood, people driving by on the highway just pulled in, got out of their cars and said “Where can we help? Put us to work!’ That’s what’s kept us going. Jon is a concrete worker, so he has lots of contacts in the local construction industry. Without everyone’s help, we’d still be hauling debris out.”

After much negotiation with Larimer County officials, the Johnsons finally got word that they were “good to go.” Did “good to go” mean assistance from the county or the state? “Oh no,” Deyn corrected with a smile. “That just meant we had permission to repair damages our own. We’re not permitted to rebuild what was destroyed, but we can repair what was damaged.”

So how far along are they in the process? “The house…probably 85 to 90 percent. As far as the cabins – the three that we can do repairs on – we basically haven’t even been able to start that yet.”

Through it all the Johnsons have maintained a positive attitude. “Some of our regulars have called in saying ‘We’re still coming in, no matter what!” What does the future look like for the Johnson family? “This is the only home our kids have known. My daughter just graduated from Estes Park High School, and will be starting at CSU this fall; my son will be starting high school in the fall. I graduated from EPHS. We’re not going anywhere. We’re here for the long haul.”

In the meantime, “This week’s crazy. We’ve got Scout court of honor tonight; tomorrow we’ve got to run to the valley to get electrical stuff for the house, plus food for the graduation party – four kids are combining…I’ll be so glad when Monday gets here!”


© 2014 Estes Park News, Inc

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