Turner Valley man settles into new home

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 04, 2013 09:58 am

Turner Valley resident Willi Craciun, holding bichon shih tzu Maggie, is happy to have a home of his own again. Craicun lost his home and wife in a fire a year ago.
Turner Valley resident Willi Craciun, holding bichon shih tzu Maggie, is happy to have a home of his own again. Craicun lost his home and wife in a fire a year ago.
Wheel File Photo

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One year after losing his home and his beloved wife, a Turner Valley man’s life is finally returning to a sense of normalcy.

Sixty-six-year-old Willi Craciun is settled into his new home and, once again, serving up coffee for those who drop by for a visit, much like the days before the tragic fire that took his wife Elly’s life in November 2012.

“Friends are coming over for coffee all the time,” he said. “It’s just the way it used to be. There are always people dropping in for coffee and saying hello.”

On Nov. 5 last year, Craciun’s mobile home caught fire with wife Elly, who was confined to a wheelchair, inside. She was pulled from the blaze by neighbours, but passed away at Foothills Hospital 13 days later.

“Yesterday was a year ago since my wife passed away,” said Craciun last month. “You never really get over it, but what are you going to do? All you can do is just keep plugging along and go from there.”

Since his loss, Craciun battled a number of his own health problems. He suffered a stroke last Christmas, underwent hernia surgery and had toes amputated due to an infection related to his Type II diabetes. Shortly after getting out of the hospital from his foot surgery his other foot was injured in an accident and he found himself in the hospital again.

“I had to go every day to get the dressing,” he said. “It slowed me down for a while there but you’ve got to keep plugging along.”

Between hospital visits, Craciun worked on the 1,080-square-foot 1960s bungalow he received from a Calgary moving company last winter to replace the home he lost.

He installed new flooring, renovated the kitchen, purchased new appliances, combined two bedrooms into one and, with the help of friends, installed electrical wiring, a furnace, plumbing and in-floor heating in the basement.

With this work complete, Craciun moved in a month ago with his nine-year-old bichon shih tzu Maggie. For the previous 12 months, Craciun stayed with a neighbour.

There are still odds and ends to finish, but Craciun said he is glad to be home. Knowing his leg will eventually have to be amputated due to continuous infections, Craciun now has to prepare his home to be wheelchair accessible.

Preparing a new home can be costly, especially with no home or contents insurance, but friends, neighbours and even strangers in the foothills made sure Craciun didn’t have to worry.

People donated furniture, household items and money to help replace the items he lost in the fire.

“If it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am now,” he said. “I more or less had to gut the place and replace everything.”

Whatever items Craciun didn’t need he donated to people affected by the June floods.

“So many people from High River and Black Diamond and Turner Valley got flooded out so some of the furniture went there,” he said. “I might as well pass it around to people who need it.”

Although the last 12 months have been tough on Craciun, he is staying positive.

“The worst thing you can do is feel sorry for yourself,” he said. “Once you feel sorry for yourself you give up.”

With Christmas fast approaching, Craciun said he is looking forward to spending it with his daughter, her husband and his two young grandchildren.

Of course, Elly will be missed.

“She always loved Christmas,” he recalled. “The house used to be decorated from one end to the other.”


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