Grandpa James & Grandma Marcella Shirk of Kanan Dume Rd., Malibu — as seen on abc7 eyewitness news with Leanne Suter.
Friday Nov. 9, 2018 was a day for my family to celebrate in Malibu. Grandpa Jim, a rural country boy originally from Alexandria Indiana, raised in the Depression Era Midwest, was turning 92 years old. The day was to unfold like many others; meeting the “Malibu Old Timers” at Lily’s for coffee, going home to apply a copious amount of SPF 50+, throw on the well-worn work jeans, and settle in for a nice nap under the avocado trees listening to 1940s jazz on the radio. A dinner celebration with Grandma Marcella, his sweetheart of 62 years, and assorted family and friends at Malibu Seafood would nicely round out the day while later they caught up on the latest of their British mystery shows.
Fatefully even the most well-oiled routines will run awry. Instead of waking in bed to the first golden rays of the day, my grandparents had already been up for several hours on “fire watch.” Around 7:30am they packed up their cars with the 22-year-old orange tabby, Tomasina, photo albums remembering another century, and said good-bye to their beloved home one last time. The Jacaranda and Olive trees bade them adieu while they zipped down the canyon road to the beach looking for any news on the evacuation.
The home they left behind was purchased in the mid 70s and was no more then a one-bedroom shanty made habitable by Jim and Marcella’s quick working hands. Although you stepped back in time walking through the front door you couldn’t help but admire the perfectly worn tile floors. In your heart you knew it was a place where love resided.
While surrounded by family and close friends during the evacuation they learned, through their son-in-law, who stayed behind to do what he could, that their home was burned entirely down. Each carefully collected glass bottle, the old juice glasses with cherries on them, and the bright red Dutch front door were all gone. My great grandfathers Persian rugs carried over from WW2 era Czechoslovakia and my grandmother’s paintings all, now, beloved memories. Grandpa’s “collections” (aka junk piles - what can we say? He’s a Depression Era “collector”) all a smoldering pile on the property that hadn’t changed much in 45 years.
And in the midst of finding out everything is now gone, Grandpa Jim, sly jokester Grandpa Jim, looks to Marcella and says with a wink, “Well you wanted me to get rid of it all, so here we have it!”
Neither of my grandparents are people who allow the cards to remain where they fall. In the upcoming weeks and months the slow process of rebuilding will begin. Permits will be requested, building contractors called, and debris removed. The slow process of bringing the property forward to the 21st century will begin.
On behalf of my family and myself we are so thankful for you taking the time to read this. All well wishes, prayers, and good vibes will be collected in our hearts and provide us with the energy to move forward from the smoldering remains of the Woolsey Fire. Any helpful tips and/or suggestions on rebuilding a life will help in more ways than we can imagine. Does anyone know of an available mobile home or large trailer they can eventually pull on the property while they rebuild?
Grandpa Jim and Grandma Marcella are in the twilight years of retirement and any financial help will bless them immensely. Working to rebuild, literally from the ground up and inside out, will put a heavy strain on their limited budget. Any portion of funds that may not be used (we have not told them we’re arranging this.. :) ) will be provided to other neighbors and friends affected by this horrific force of nature.