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"I could tell you that when you have trouble making up your mind about something, tell yourself you’ll settle it by flipping a coin. But don’t go by how the coin flips; go by your emotional reaction to the coin flip. Are you happy or sad it came up heads or tails?"
– David Brooks  
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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 6 June 2019  

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Bill Radford

  Fire survivor writes book to help others
  By Bill Radford

   For Nigel Thompson, the 2013 Black Forest fire not only destroyed his home but set forth ripples that would dramatically transform his life.
   
   He recounts those years after the fire in "Fire Survivor: A Personal Story of the Black Forest Fire." As he notes in a summary of the book, "It’s not guidance or life advice or any of that stuff," but it does offer a message of hope for others who have been through a disaster.
   
   Thompson came from England to the United States in 1989 to work for Microsoft. "I intended to be here a couple of years," he said in an email. "But I'm still here."
   
   He worked first in the Seattle area; after a year, his wife had "had enough of me, the country, the people, and was terribly homesick for her family and friends," he writes in his book. They split up and she returned to England.
   
   Thompson remarried and became a parent; he and his family left Seattle for Colorado in 1996 "for some sunshine and the mountains." He found Black Forest "by accident while looking at property listings in Colorado in general and later around Colorado Springs," he said in his email.
   
   They moved into a grand house "large and sprawling" at 7,500 square feet and on a 40-acre lot; later they added another 20 acres. One of the first things Thompson did was have the trees on the property thinned out to a specification he had gotten from the Forest Service. Years later, he topped the house with fire-retardant roof tiles. But, as he told an Associated Press reporter after the fire, “It didn’t make a damn difference at the end of the day."
   
   His home was lost to the fire, along with a couple of outbuildings. The family's two horses died, along with two horses that a neighbor had placed with the Thompson horses.
   
   Thompson was at work when he heard about the fire; his wife and younger daughter were in Oregon visiting his older daughter, who was due to graduate from college in a few days. Thompson rushed home and retrieved two fire safes, a small one containing backup computer discs and a large one that required him to use his tractor to get it into his truck. He grabbed a few more items, then fled with the sight of flames in his rear-view mirror.
   
   In a chapter titled "Lessons Learned," Thompson stresses the importance of having a disaster plan in place. "I'm a pretty rational guy," he wrote, "and I don't get flustered by much, but I still managed to be very stupid on the day of the fire and left behind photo albums and a big computer disc I could easily have grabbed and put in my truck. It's really, really hard to remember stuff when your head is exploding with messages telling you to get out of the house because there is a BIG FIRE outside."
   
   One thing that helped them in dealing with the insurance company is that Thompson's wife, after the Waldo Canyon fire, created a photo record of everything they owned. The 1,200 photographs were on a laptop she had taken with her to Oregon.
   
   "Our insurance story was essentially a happy one," Thompson wrote. "We got the money owed to us from our policy and we used that to build a new house. Other people were by no means as lucky. If you're reading this and have not suffered a disaster like ours, it's time to look at your policy and maybe ask some questions about what exactly it covers and whether the policy value is going to let you recover your home and belongings if they are suddenly not there one day."
   
   One question they faced was where to live while they rebuilt. While the insurance company offered to rent them a comparable house for a year, Thompson decided to use that money to buy a trailer to live in –- a decision he came to regret.
   
   “Overall, I'd say that the idea of us living in the trailer was terrible,” he said. “We had a lot of tension caused by our ordeal and the small space. We got into arguments about stuff that were so much more intense because you can't move. There is no pacing around. You just stand there and argue."
   
   With two kids out of the house and the last one soon off to college, Thompson and his wife decided on a more modest home in rebuilding. The new home, less than half the size of the original, took about a year to build. But Thompson found himself alone in the house when his marriage crumbled.
   More change would follow: quitting his job, selling the new house and moving to an even smaller home in Woodland Park, training for and running the Pikes Peak Ascent at age 61, finding happiness in traveling and living a simpler life.
   
   "The loss from a fire is terrible," he said in his email. "In an odd way it was good for me." He was inspired to write the book, he said, "Because I kept seeing news of other fires and thought that my story might inspire someone to keep going. I know many people can't just do what I did, but the message is that you can survive. I did."
  
For Nigel Thompson, the 2013 Black Forest fire not only destroyed his home but set forth ripples that would dramatically transform his life. Photo submitted
 
Find “Fire Survivor” for the Kindle and in paperback on amazon.com.
 
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  Black Forest interfaith Christmas concert
  By Leslie Sheley

   The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Black Forest Community Church held a Christmas concert at the Church of Jesus Christ Black Forest ward on Dec.9 — about 300 people attended.
   
   Choir members from the ward and the BFCC, plus the 25 Mormon Stake Choir, performed alongside Christmas readings and prayers. Tim Felicia, choir director for the Stake, and Sherri Ramsey, choir director for the BFCC, directed the concert.
   
   For 17 years, the two churches came together to perform Christmas concerts, said Sharlene Law, choir member of the ward. “It all started when the Black Forest ward finished their new building; the bishop decided to have a celebration and invited all the churches of Black Forest to come together and sing,” Law said.
   
   The two churches also performed together at Easter. The music included instrumental pieces and songs from the children, Law said.
   
   Patty Weenig, choir director for the ward in the early days, said a stained glass window in the BFCC with an inscription that read “love one another” and a song in the ward with the same name became the groups’ theme song.
   
   Kay Stricklan, current choir member at the BFCC, said she used to sing with the groups when they performed together; they also ended up doing community projects together. “A huge piece of BFCC is the sense of community, and it was wonderful to do some projects with the ward,” Stricklan said.
   
   Elder Donnie Burgess, who gave the closing prayer at the end of the Dec. 9 concert, reminisced about the camaraderie between the BFCC and the Church of Jesus Christ in Black Forest. When he was the bishop during the initial years, Burgess said he developed a relationship with Nick Natelli, the pastor at the BFCC at the same time. “We would have great conversations between us, where I would ask him questions about his church and faith and he would ask me questions; it was a good relationship,” Burgess said. He also recalled the days when the community center would decorate the Christmas tree on their property and the two choirs would sing together at the ceremony; and, afterward, help decorate the tree.
   
   Law said this past year, Kim Thomas, a former bishop, encouraged the ward to revive the 17-year tradition. Bishop Gary Balaich approached Pastor Marta Fioriti and asked if their church choir would be interested in continuing the concert series. She said yes, and the Dec. 9 revival was a success.
   
   “What a wonderful way to start the Christmas season with inspirational music, warm fellowship with our brothers and sisters from the Black Forest Community Church, just like we used to do in the early 2000s,” said Carol Cadle. “Thanks so much to all that participated,” Richard Cadle added.
   
   “It was a beautiful, well-arranged service and beautifully performed,” said concert goer Diana Black. “The best part was the meeting of two churches, who really don’t have much in common other than being neighbors, to produce it. It was deeply heart-warming.”
  
Members of the Black Forest Interfaith Christmas choir pose for a photo at the Dec. 9 concert. Those you can see in the photo are front row (from left to right) Barbara Lehman; Sherri Ramsey; choir director; Sharlene Law; Nancy Iverson; Courtney Smith; second row (from left to right) Kay Stricklan, Mona Navalta, Barbara Dixon and Sharon James. Photo submitted
 
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  AARP Black Forest
  Celebrating the holiday
  Submitted by Stanley Beckner

   Violinist Herman Susser played a long program of traditional holiday music to the delight of the members and guests at the Dec. 12 meeting of the Black Forest AARP Chapter 1100. Each song selection was greeted with enthusiastic applause from the holiday assemblage seated at tables decorated with poinsettias and other festive decor.
        
   A huge feast of traditional turkey and dressing, ham and mashed potatoes, along with a multitude of side dishes and an extensive dessert bar by chapter members made for a wonderful holiday party.
      
   Chapter President Ray Rozak reviewed the many chapter community service accomplishments that the members participated in during the past year. This included the annual free shredding event, a blood drive, fire extinguisher and driver safety training, providing free transportation for those in need, free stroke and heart attack awareness instruction for the community and active participation in the Black Forest Festival. The chapter also supported several Senior Resource Council events, including the Holiday Dinner Dance; Silver Key outreach activities; providing wheelchair pouches to the veterans at the Veterans Community Living Center in Florence, Colorado; filling Christmas stockings for The Salvation Army to distribute to children at Christmas time; and providing Easter baskets for children of homeless individuals in the San Louis Valley. The chapter also participates in care taking in the community and community outreach through numerous area events.
   
   Many activities included raising funds. The chapter donated $1,655 to historic charities such as the Black Forest Community Log School Park Foundation; the original Log Community Church in Black Forest; Hope Restored, the charity dedicated to assisting victims of disasters like the Black Forest Fire; and Black Forest Cares, a local food pantry. The chapter also donated 636 pounds of non-perishable food to Black Forest Cares during 2018.
   
   The short business meeting included the annual election of chapter officers for 2019. The officers will be installed at the Jan. 9 meeting by Roberto Rey from the AARP Colorado office.       
   
   Home Depot furnished the poinsettias for the tables. They were distributed to attendees, along with gifts brought by the members. Everyone who attended received at least one wrapped item to take home at the day’s end.  
   
   The motto of the Black Forest AARP Chapter is “To Serve, not to be Served.” Membership is open to all ages. Persons interested in serving in the community and being part of educational social activities should contact Ray at 719-495-6767. More information on Chapter 1100 can be found at https://aarpchapter1100blackforest.weebly.com.
  
Herman Susser performed violin holiday karaoke music at the Dec. 12 AARP Chapter 1100 meeting in Black Forest.
 
Chapter members and guests enjoyed the holiday atmosphere at the December AARP Black Forest meeting and dinner, which also included music by Herman Susser and lots of goodies and gifts.
 
 
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  Black Forest Women’s Club

   The next meeting of the Black Forest Women’s Club is Jan. 10 at the Black Forest Lutheran Church, 12455 Black Forest Road. Refreshments and coffee will be available at 9:30 a.m. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. Guests and friends are always welcome. Come join us for fun and informative programs this year!
   
   For information or questions, call Carol at 719-495-3846.
  
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