Community spirit shines through for Bearcreek couple

Photo by Alastair Baker

Bob Thompson and Kathy Burgener

stand beside their donated

Christmas tree in their room

at Red Lodge Inn.

The outpouring of generosity and love towards Kathy Burgener and Bob Thompson after a fire destroyed their home in Bearcreek last week has been “wonderful” say the couple.

Last Wednesday morning, Burgener’s home of 48 years, went up in flames because of  faulty wiring in the water heater. In the ensuring chaos there was barely enough time for them to escape the inferno, but they managed to rescue their collection of birds. Unfortunately their cats perished along with family mementoes.

The couple has spent the last week at the Red Lodge Inn, in a room paid for courtesy of Town Pump, who Thompson works for, and the American Red Cross of Montana (ARCM). An anonymous donor has also provided them with a fully furnished home in Red Lodge until they get back on their feet.

On top of this, Thompson lost his hearing aids in the fire and will be getting brand new replacements courtesy of ARCM from the Billings Hearing Aid Institute. At present he uses tiny ampliers to hear with. They were in the pickup at the time of the fire.

Red Lodge Drug also stepped up and donated Thompson all his prescription drugs as did Riverstone Clinic for Burgener.

“It has been so overwhelming. The out pouring of love and care and generosity has been so totally overwhelming, it’s so wonderful,” said Burgener. “This community, these communities, not just Bearcreek and Red Lodge, all of them together are giving and it’s  been overwhelming.”

The generosity is helping Burgener over come the loss of her house. “I still can’t get round the concept I can’t go home because I have no home. It was my home. My entire life. This generosity just shows how much everyone pulls together to help to care for people,” she said.

Thompson is also amazed at the response from the public and especially Town Pump.

“I’ve only been at Town Pump 11 months and they are the greatest people in the world. They bought coffee and food for the fire fighters and dinner up here the first night and breakfast at Red Lodge Café the next morning. One of the girls (at Town Pump) bought us a Christmas tree,” he said. “It’s wonderful. I’ve never worked for an outfit like that and I can’t thank them enough. So many people I have to thank, I can’t name them. I went out to my pickup yesterday morning, found a brand new Carhartt coat in there. We got these clothes at the (Red Lodge) Senior Centre. Everyone has been fabulous, people I didn’t even know, I really want to stress that Town Pump came to bat.”

Burgener, who only had bedroom slippers to walk in, also received a brand new pair of shoes from Sylvain Peak.

“Words can’t express it enough,” said Burgener. “There aren’t words enough to say thank you for everything.“

Thompson, who has carried out a lot of community service for towns down the years, feels all that  is “coming back” to him.

“Since I was 12 years I’ve been on my own more or less and it’s hard for me to grasp all this stuff that is coming in,” he said.

“My late husband said when something happens, pick up what you can scrape together and carry on,” said Burgener.

The couple has another house in Bearcreek and plan to fix that up.

“It needs to be replumbed and rewired and remodeled but if we can get a kitchen, bathroom and a bedroom we can finish it. We are looking at getting a camp trailer from my son in March and moving it up to stay there and get more done. It’s not going happen over night but I’m going to be back in Bearcreek, that’s were my heart is,” said Burgener.

How to help Kathy and Bob

*Beartooth Elks #0534, Red Lodge, is accepting donations on their behalf.

*A benefit fund has been set up at the Bank of Red Lodge. Donations will also be received at the Bank of Joliet or Bank of Bridger either by person or mail. Please make checks payable to the Burgener/Thompson Benefit.

*There are collection buckets in businesses throughout Red Lodge, including Town Pump.