“Only in America!” says Korean War veteran Herb Stettler as he expresses appreciation for his new home in Kasilof. Stettler has lived on the Kenai Peninsula since 1968, working as crab fisherman in Seldovia, a lumber jack in Jakilof Bay and then a driver for the Kenai Senior Center for some 15 years. He is a member of the VFW Post 10046 where he has served as Chaplin and well known to everyone who has attended a Memorial Day service for his annual reading of the poem Flanders Field. This spring the trailer where Herb had lived in Kasilof since 1991 burned down, Gordon Orth of Central Emergency Services (CES) was one of the first responders and said it wasn’t until after they had knocked the fire down that he realized it was Herb’s place, but as soon as they did the plans to rebuild a home for him began.
This summer in celebration of Herb’s 81st birthday a benefit was organized at the Kenai Senior Center where 200 some folks turned out for a barbeque and auction that raised over $12,000 dollars to help build him a new cabin. According to Keith Randall, CES Chaplin by the time of Herb’s house warming last week cash donations had totaled $22,582 and in-kind donations of materials and appliances another $57,400, “Then there were hundreds of hours of volunteer labor in constructing Herb’s new cabin. I don’t have a list of everyone who contributed yet, but some of the major corporate sponsors were Spenard Builders Supply, Peak Oilfield Services and Home Depot Foundation and of course Herb’s church Soldotna United Methodist and VFW were very involved. Our ESI made up of CES firefighters coordinated the fundraising and labor but there were so many people who had been impacted by Herb’s life that stepped up that the whole community should get credit for making this happen,” said Randall.
At his birthday party this summer Herb said, “This is a fantastic thing and it’s only in America where we enjoy these kind of freedoms that produce this kind of community. It’s amazing and it’s worth fighting for.” Over 50 folks turned out for Herb’s house warming and blessing last Sunday and he had everyone sign his new guest book, “They did outstanding work, very professionally done, my neighbor is an electrician on a platform and he did the wiring and wall sockets and then turned it over to Big G Electric who finished it up and the quality of the work is just outstanding and soon Home Depot is bringing out the kitchen and I’ll have a stove and sink and running water and septic for the first time since I moved here on my lot and this will be the most comfortable winter I’ve ever had,” said an appreciative Herb Stettler.