Conyers resident Walter Harris grieves lack of dwelling and historical past

2021-04-21 18:05:00

CONYERS — Greenback Invoice had been his little greatest good friend and fixed companion for extra years than he can keep in mind. Whereas Walter Harris’ Chihuahua was small in stature, his coronary heart was massive and courageous. With the home burning down round them, Harris and Greenback Invoice scrambled to security outdoors within the yard. It was then the little canine turned and ran again into the fiery blaze.

Of us say they imagine he rushed again in to save lots of Harris’ grandson, Jefferson Tye, who had already managed to search out his personal approach out of the collapsing home.

The courageous little canine wouldn’t survive. He died of smoke inhalation and was later discovered among the many ashes of the Conyers dwelling. His canine’s demise was however one of many many blows Harris would undergo from that horrific early morning fireplace on March 22. That was the day the Rockdale County native misplaced the whole lot he had ever labored for his complete life.

“He misplaced ev-er-ry-thing,” his niece Renee’ Simpson mentioned. “He misplaced each possession he ever owned and that he labored for all his life. Every thing went up in flames…He had no insurance coverage. He had legal responsibility on his automobiles. We’ll have to purchase him a truck. No insurance coverage on his home and solely legal responsibility on his truck and automotive. No pension, no financial savings, nothing.”

A person of few phrases who lived a easy life, Harris by no means wanted a lot. And what he did have, he shared with others who had been missing.

“He’s all the time been so quiet,” Simpson mentioned. “He was a workaholic and a fisherman and all the time there for the household. When the household was in want, he was all the time there to do no matter he may bodily or financially when he was employed and had cash.”

Harris did development work all his life, primarily laying brick and pouring concrete. He additionally did what he may for his fellow residents in Conyers. Simpson tells how Harris had 4 lawnmowers and for years, he would put the gear on the again of his trailer and go to small church buildings all through the group and mow their lawns totally free. Now that gear too is simply rubble within the ashes.

It was an previous small mill home within the Milstead group, nevertheless it was Harris’ dwelling for 51 years. Stuffed with images and memorabilia from his 80 years of life, the little home is the place he and his late spouse lived and the place they raised their household. His spouse had lived in the home subsequent door earlier than the couple married, so to Harris, this spot, this group is particular.

“It is rather unhappy,” Simpson mentioned. “He’s grieving every day. Once I converse of that grief, simply think about an individual who returns to the gravesite of a partner every day. That was his complete life.”

The aged widower is quickly staying with pals close by, however his niece says he retains telling her he simply needs to go dwelling. For the reason that day after the hearth, Harris goes to the ruins of his dwelling every morning at 8, the place he stays till 7 every night. His niece worries as a result of he typically talks with well-wishers who cease by about these horrible moments of March 22, and he cries.

Harris mentioned it was about 4 a.m. when he heard a loud pop. He later informed his niece he thought it was a transformer, so he received up and went to the kitchen within the entrance of the home. He noticed smoke coming beneath the door, so he ran again to his bed room to dress and when he returned to the entrance, the hearth was coming beneath the door.

Simpson mentioned the reason for the hearth is undetermined. Some have instructed it might need been a fuel leak, however his niece mentioned her uncle had not had the fuel related to his home for 4 years. The one factor for positive is that the home is gone and all that’s left now’s a tumble of wooden and destroyed belongings.

“He mentioned it hurts him to go away,” Simpson mentioned. “Whereas he’s there, he simply burns a chunk or two or three and he actually stares on the fireplace. I’ve by no means seen something prefer it earlier than in my life.”

Some have really helpful he transfer into an condominium or sponsored housing, however Harris tells them he’ll die if he has to try this. His niece says she believes he would grieve himself to demise and doubtless wouldn’t reside longer than a month.

“He simply needs to be proper there in that precise spot and doesn’t need to go wherever else,” she added. Simpson has despatched out 213 letters to firms and organizations asking for assist with rebuilding her uncle’s dwelling. A number of have reached out, however Simpson hopes others will provide to donate supplies, cash, companies or volunteer their time. She mentioned her uncle and household are grateful for the whole lot folks have already been doing to assist.

“There have been a few church buildings which have come out and left cash for meals,” she mentioned. “Beasley’s Drug Retailer has been fantastic. They’ve been bringing meals out. We’ve had folks locally to carry him clothes and now he has greater than he wants. Toiletries have been overwhelming. He has an abundance. Our essential focus proper now’s the tough a part of getting the home reconstructed. We’re needing constructing supplies, laborers, people who find themselves professionals who can donate their time for flooring, insulation, drywall and different wants.”

A licensed actual property agent for twenty-four years, Simpson has discovered a home plan that’s as related as doable to Harris’ former dwelling. It’s a small two-bedroom cottage with a household room and a kitchen.

“He’s happy with that,” she mentioned. “He simply needs to be proper there in that precise spot…All he talks about is having his home rebuilt. He says, ‘I simply need to go dwelling and stroll into my home.’”

Simpson mentioned she is planning to undergo her personal previous household images and is wanting ahead to the day she will body a couple of to hold on the partitions of her uncle’s new home.

Each time he sees her, Harris tells his niece how a lot he appreciates her and says he doesn’t know what he would do with out her. Simpson worries about her uncle and desires to do the whole lot she will.

“I can’t clarify it,” she mentioned. “He’s in his personal world. I’ve by no means seen him like this in my complete life.”

A GoFundMe web page has been arrange and donations might be made by going to

“That’s my favourite uncle — all the time,” Simpson mentioned, including that she is the daughter of Harris’ late brother, James, who handed away in 1997. “He’s a fisherman and I like fish. I may eat it seven days every week. He’d all the time go fishing and he’d name me up and say he’s received fish for me. I’d pop in on him and ensure he’s OK… We’ve all the time been very shut.”

It was Harris’ neighbor, who can also be an in depth household good friend, who known as Simpson the morning of the hearth. She first requested the good friend if her uncle and cousin had been secure and the good friend mentioned sure, however added that nobody may discover little Greenback Invoice.

Simpson arrived at dawn to see her uncle standing there with tears rolling down his face.

“I felt a way of super void,” Simpson mentioned. “I used to be hurting as if I’d simply misplaced my dad another time. The tears from him weren’t only for a loss, however a demise. It touched me to the core, and I couldn’t fathom what he was feeling at the moment. Each emotion he was feeling, it drifted over to me. I may really feel it…The takeaway is he survived and my cousin survived. So after gathering myself, I used to be capable of give a sigh of reduction.

“All of this different stuff might be changed, however when you consider it, I do know that is what he’s considering, it can’t be changed. Fifty-one years. It can’t.”

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