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'I had tears in my eyes': World War II trunk recovered in home heavily damaged by the Marshall Fire

Ann Dixon's father served in WWII. When the Marshall Fire damaged her home in Superior, firefighters from Loveland Fire Rescue Authority recovered the trunk.

SUPERIOR, Colo. — When Ann and Rick Dixon were skiing at Eldora, the most destructive wildfire in Colorado's history began to take shape. 

Their son, William, was at the family home in Superior when he called his parents. 

“He came outside and said ‘it’s pretty bad.’ And so he came back in and started racing around the house to corral the cats to carriers, grab jewelry and clothes and computers for us," Ann recalled. “Fortunately he was there and had a very level head to do what he did.”

By the end, the house they called home for more than a decade was severely damaged - irreparable, Ann and Rick say. 

“I just see all the family and friends we had over the years and just its – it’ll never be the same," Rick said. 

“We don’t have a choice but to embrace this as a new start," said Ann. “I see the Halloween parties, I see the gatherings, the little wine tasting parties we used to have.”

The second floor leading to their bedroom was still intact, but the garage was destroyed, as were parts of the roof and the inside of the home. A sign now is posted on the front door deeming it unsafe to be in what's left of the home. 

“And what’s kind of sad is you can see the upstairs bathroom with the towel hanging on the door," said Ann. “But at the end of the day you have each other."

Credit: Luis de Leon
The home of Ann and Rick Dixon in Superior following the Marshall Fire.

On the day when Ann and Rick could enter the neighborhood and get up to their home, they examined what could be salvaged. 

Ann remembered that in their upstairs bedroom, her father's trunk from his time serving in World War II. 

Her father, United States Army Air Corps Lieutenant William C. Popovich, was a bombardier in World War II. He passed away in 1989. 

“He was shot down over Giessen, Germany and remained a POW until the war ended," Ann explained. 

Luckily, the Engine 52 Crew of the Loveland Fire Rescue Authority were down the street continuing to help put out the smoldering debris. 

Rick and Ann asked some of the firefighters if they had a moment to check and see if they could recover the trunk. 

As seen on Facebook, a group of firefighters set up ladders leading to the bedroom window, where they were able to haul the trunk out and down the ladder. 

“Oh my gosh I had tears in my eyes, my sisters would be so happy," Ann recalled. “One of them put his hand over his heart and said ‘I’m honored to do this for you.’”

Credit: Luis de Leon
The trunk recovered by Loveland Fire Rescue Authority.

Most of the contents in the trunk, like his uniform among other things, were spread out to other family members. 

But what was left inside was a binder containing contents of the hand-written journal by Ann's father. 

“It’s got his military card and then it shows every page and what was on it. And so this journal told basically what he ate each day, what each day was like, there’s a lot of poetry in here," Ann shared. “So my dad had given me the hand-written journal probably the last time, one of the last times I had seen him.”

Regarding the state of their home, Ann and Rick acknowledge that they're not alone in this, as so many of their neighbors suffered a similar fate with their homes. Many of their neighbors only have their foundations left. 

Their house, while deemed damaged, will likely not be able to be repaired, according to Ann and Rick, so they're thankful to the firefighters who helped them on that day, as well as all of the first responders that fought fires and helped the community.

“We’re grieving with hope for the future and not despair. We can’t change this, we have to embrace our future and just move forward," Ann said.

Credit: Luis de Leon
Ann Dixon's father, Lt. William C. Popovich.

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