Family members close to Nick Antonelli say the support that has poured in from the community has been “overwhelming” since the local man lost his Pemberton Meadows home in a New Year’s Eve fire.
Speaking to The Question on Antonelli’s behalf, niece Tyranne Yorke said many individuals and local businesses have stepped up to help Antonelli during a very difficult time.
“A huge thank you to everyone who’s helped,” said Yorke. “Nick was just blown away by all the generosity.”
Antonelli had been out working in his yard cutting firewood all day on Dec. 31, said Yorke. As he was returning to the house, he noticed the fire through the window.
“At that point, I think it was still minimal enough that he thought he could get into the house, so he opened the door and that just oxygenated everything, and that’s when it really took off,” said Yorke. “He pretty much watched the whole thing happen.”
Antonelli went around to the back door hoping to rescue two dogs that were inside but could not get them out. The animals, Oliver and Charlie, did not survive.
Fire officials originally suspected a wood stove to be the source of the fire, but Yorke said Antonelli didn’t think that’s where it started and further investigations weren’t conclusive.
While the structure of the house remained intact, Yorke said at least 90 per cent of the interior was destroyed.
“There was no part of the house that was salvageable whatsoever,” she said.
Yorke said the situation is particularly “heartbreaking” for Antonelli, considering that his son Corey passed away less than two years ago. Among the contents of the home lost were some of Corey’s belongings, plus other mementos from past generations of the Antonelli family. Charlie was originally Corey’s dog as well.
Corey’s ashes that were in the house were saved, but his mother, Michelle Humchitt, said she is having a difficult time dealing with the loss of other items belonging to her late son.
“I feel like I’m back to the day where Corey died again,” said Humchitt. “I don’t even have a T-shirt of my son’s.”
Humchitt said that despite the loss of some of his personal effects, she hopes those within the community who knew Corey will continue to keep his memory alive.
Yorke said family and friends were able to salvage some photo albums from the scene, made new ones with the pictures that were saved and gave them to Antonelli as a birthday present this past week.
“I definitely saw a sparkle in his eye and a couple of really good smiles and chuckles, so that was really nice to see,” Yorke said of Antonelli’s reaction to the gift.
“He’s doing fairly well, all things considered,” she continued. “He’s shown a tremendous amount of strength, he’s being really brave and it’s pretty inspirational to see.”
Efforts to help Antonelli are set to continue this weekend, as a fundraiser event is scheduled for The Pony on Saturday (Jan. 12) at 7:30 p.m. The evening will feature a performance by Papa Josh and a silent auction, while staff at the restaurant have committed to donating a portion of proceeds and gratuities to Antonelli.
Additionally, a trust account has been set up at the local Scotiabank branch for anyone who would like to donate. Those hoping to make a contribution at a different bank may contact Yorke via Facebook for account details.