it was the best of times…it was the worst of times… or so they say.
but as the also say, the worst tends to bring out the best in people
and that’s not a cliche today.
this will probably be the longest post i’ve ever done.
but i have a feeling you won’t mind because of the subject matter.
It’s August 25
and no one was mentally-prepared for the
havoc Texas’ Gulf Coast was about to experience.
it’s been covered plenty, you get it.
down to the studs and foundation kind of destruction.
neighborhoods sprinkled throughout the city with entire contents
of their lives spread out on the front lawn like some distorted garage sale —
and that itself a luxury considering how many homes
were completely destroyed and sentenced to death by mold.
harvey was relentless,
sitting on top of the city for what seemed
like an eternity of rain dumped on more rain dumped on more rain.
it was almost impossible to believe.
this is where mr. bill fly’s story begins
and his life is changed forever.
where many lives are changed forever.
Here’s how the story begins (basically).
Mr. Fly is a 99 year old veteran of World War 2.
His home flooded in Hurricane Harvey.
Mr. Fly’s neighbor, Jeff Wood, reached out to a group of
Rosehill Christian students and their moms, Karen & Missy
who asked if Marcus Luttrell would go speak to Mr. Fly.
Marcus, an amazingly dedicated veteran who
is known to the world as the the face of veterans.
He and his amazingly generous, awesome,
beautiful, intelligent, gracious, humble, jesus-serving
(i could go on but i’ll stop for the sake of a long post)
wife, Melanie, obliged and
the winds of change began to take form.
Winds stronger than any cat 4 category you could dream up.
Marcus and Melanie right there and then, adopted Mr. Fly
and put their work gloves on both figuratively and literally.
Melanie enlisted the help of so many,
beginning with Cotton Foundation.
Superstars of industry.
This is days after the streets cleared.
You can see the looks of concern on everyone’s faces.
But they didn’t just stand around “looking concerned”.
they took action.
countless people organized and reigned in by melanie,
They just showed up.
and as God saw fit, I was there one day when “they” showed up.
actually, the minute they showed up.
As it happened,
I saw Melanie’s post about “the 99-year old, world war 2 veteran”
on her instagram
and brought chicken pot pie to feed her people helping to demo mr. fly’s house.
I’ll never forget standing in the street, when a caravan of police vehicles and trucks
approached and a man said, “is this the vet’s house?”
something about that made the hairs on my arm stand up.
A group of police/swat drove from Evansville, Indiana to help demo mr. fly’s house.
they came asking nothing but to offer their hands and hearts.
in case you’re wondering, Evansville is roughly 1000 miles and in post-hurricane conditions
where much part of the city was still under water, in complete disarray,
without electricity, food shortages, etc..
these men did this for a man they had never met nor
had any ties to or would benefit in any other way.
they were just your random, kind-hearted bad asses.
this is the way things are supposed to be.
and so the work began
After this, the work just happened and happened and kept happening again.
and it had to happen because the project had a very ambitious end date.
Mr. Fly’s 100th birthday November 13th.
As Marcus so eloquently put it,
“He fought for our independence, so now we will fight for his”.
The details that Melanie handled were astronomical.
To think that the entire project happened over
the span of barely 2 months is mind boggling.
$90,000 was raised from a Go Fundme account set up for Mr. Fly.
and contributions of everything from lumber to towels to trees were given.
The plight may have belonged to this one man,
but the resolution belonged to the community.
and this is the way it’s supposed to be.
The Luttrell’s and their friends at Cotton
were on a mission — better yet– OPERATION 100 as it came to be called.
Not only did they fulfill their vow.
But they did it days ahead of time before Mr. Fly’s actual birthday…
which happens to be 2 days after Veteran’s Day.
coincidence? i think not.
A cool, crisp perfect Fall day with flags lining the street similarly to the last time
I visited Mr. Fly’s house on Labor Day.
A scene rich with sweet irony and perfect timing.
the big moment arrived.
and the star of the show arrived fresh from his 2 month stay
at the incredible Juneau Ranch,
graciously offered by the Juneau family.
and the people arrived.
Fox News reporter, Janice Dean, ready to report to the world
that goodness is alive in well in Houston!
and in these few photos…Marcus greeting
CEO/Pete Bell & COO/ Randall Thompson of Cotton Holdings tells it all.
It tells the story of devotion and gratitude for the common good of the fellow man.
a pat on the back for a job well done
and then the big moment came
so fun to have a front row seat and watch marcus & melanie
deliver on their word.
i can only imagine how mr. fly’s heart was pounding at this moment.
though, he handled it, cool as a cucumber.
the first smile as he saw his living room.
how happy he was to see his pool table restored to it’s greatness.
can we talk about the furniture for a minute?
GORGEOUS! SOLID. WARM. PERFECT.
AND FREE TO MR. FLY.
Houston’s favorite furniture genius, Mattress Mack, Jim Mcingvale, of Gallery Furniture
donated the entire contents of furniture.
i proclaim him saint of all furniture and
I WILL buy my next sofa from there!
everything new and yet somehow familiar too.
melanie worked to place furniture in their original location
to help ease Mr. Fly into his old, “new” digs.
onto the kitchen. bright and beautiful
RWS Cabinets cranked out custom cabinets
paired with the gorgeous counters donated by Simmons Granite
and how can we not talk about this jaw dropping beautiful cake from Cotton Culinary?
Mr. Fly took one look and said he was HAVING that cake!
I took a little piece home for my son and i really regretted sharing. It was MESMERIZING.
beautiful breakfast nook
everything done so tastefully, so perfectly, he had to touch it to make sure it was real
a little present from my heart to the Fly Family…
back during the demo, i made a trip to photo the exterior one day.
I came across a wooden spoon lying in the middle of the sidewalk and it broke my heart.
as a mom, a wife, a cook, i imagined how many times, mrs. fly must’ve used this spoon
to make family dinners, thanksgivings, stirred sauce, rice crispy treats…
i was glad no one was there to see my tears.
mr. fly lost his wife of 70 years– no that’s not a typo– just a
few months before the flood.
all these changes and a loss this great…it’s hard to fathom.
so i took the spoon and instantly knew i wanted to do something with it.
melanie was so gracious to hang this in the kitchen and i will forever be honored.
No detail was left forgotten.
Even the fridge and pantry were stocked for Mr. Fly to settle right in. A dream.
Mr. Fly continued on his tour of his new, unbelievable house.
front room/formal with poker table for “guys nights” and dining table for family dinners.
It was evident that the personal touches like this meant so much to mr. fly and all his family.
Here, his great-grandson, Army Corporal William Amundson Jr.,
3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Georgia,
died in Afghanistan during his 3rd tour.
Such a heartfelt tribute including a stone rubbing of his name from the
Fallen Warriors Memorial on Cutten/Cypresswood in Champions Forest.
Easy to see what serving our county means to families like these who make such sacrifice.
serene secondary bedrooms for
family to come keep mr. fly company for a visit.
Guest bath with a spa feel
This dapper office for Mr. Fly.
Mr. Fly’s oasis.
master bathroom with easy access to get around
So now that we’ve concluded the tour of Mr. Fly’s new pad, let’s move on to
the events of the day.
So many cameras to document this unbelievable experience.
Not including mine…at least 5 videographers.
why the fuss?
because this kind of heart and community are just not seen
anymore. good news doesn’t always make the news. but today things are
the way it’s supposed to be.
Janice Dean of Fox News Channel, such sunshine!
Not only is she bright and beautiful on screen (and undisputed best hair),
but she’s really the same in person.
Definitely made some new fans her in Houston.
PLEASE see the wonderful piece she and her producer Kelly May did
Jason Miles/KHOU did a wonderful job on the unveiling.
The team from Cotton, again, can’t say enough about them.
Professionals and still all heart!
Melanie mentioned she’d really like to give Shain from Cotton
a BIG shout out. I can’t actually quote her here b/c i know a couple kids
that will read this post…but let’s just say she says he is FREAKING amazing
working 7 days a week/16 hour days….this project would NOT have been
possible without you!
It is not often you see that level of dedication.
I mean, I walked in the door with my spoon present for mr. fly and
Shain just took it from me and hung it.
no questions, just get-er-done!
You are one good man, Shain! I pray you will be returned
100 times your goodness and commitment!
I know you know they’re yummy eats but did you know they are an amazing
contributor to our veterans?
A check to the Luttrell’s organization to serve and care for vets for $50,000!
Next, what is a party without gifts?
What do you give a guy who’s lived 100 years?
How about a congressional shout out at the nation’s capitol?
Christian Collins, campaign manager for Kevin Brady presented Mr. Fly
with the proceedings of congress where his story and the story of the volunteers were told,
as well as, a flag flown over our nation’s capitol in his honor.
Everyone was overjoyed with this amazing gift, especially Mr. Fly
And the word amazing is not lost here. because truly, all of the gracious gifts
brought to Mr. Fly were magnanimous.
Not only in monetary value, but in the spirit of a community coming to his aid in love.
The National Memorial Ladies gifted Mr. Fly with a
year of groceries, bought and delivered to him weekly.
Mr. Fly, I would shed a couple tears if someone did this for me too.
I jest, but truly, what a gift in the spirit of caring for someone… very moving.
A very worthy organization!
Another gift…this time from Houston’s son, JJ WATT.
he sent mr. fly a lovely, personal video wishing him a happy birthday!
remember our demo/police friends from Evansville, Indiana?
Well, they did it again. They came 1000 miles again. (really 2000 coming and going)
ok so here’s something I want to point out.
The way these men all surrounded Mr. Fly, kneeling to present this wonderful
moments of friendship and respect alongside Marcus.
It was brotherhood that transcends time, age, and distance.
I would almost describe it as holy.
The respect and love for our cherished veterans and elders…
just leaves a lump in your throat.
And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
and then there was this.
see the look of gratitude on mr. fly’s face?
this is what pure gratitude looks like.
this is his neighbor Jeff Wood.
He is the person who began the ball rolling in this entire ordeal.
Jeff told 2 moms, Karen Kelso & Missy McGee, or as
Melanie refers to them, “superstar volunteers”, about Mr. Fly.
They reached out to Melanie and so began this labor of love.
here are the young rockstars who involved their moms, Missy & Karen.
I know your parents are so proud!
and one big surprise Mr. Fly never imagined.
as if the whole house renovation wasn’t enough…
mr. fly received a new Cadillac!
you can see the joy on everyone’s faces!
the joy on both their faces is too much!
time for cake!
singing happy birthday to a person who’s made it to 100
and lived all the life he’s lived.
Someone who’s survived war, destruction,
first walk on the moon, rock and roll, and on and on….
A surreal and beautiful moment to blow out your 100th birthday cake with your great-great granddaughters.
i told the girls they should each keep a candle and remember that moment.
i hope and pray all your birthday wishes came true mr. fly!
if you see Melanie, give a good pat on the back.
and maybe her favorite …. breakfast tacos.
what you and marcus pulled off is not describable.
it’s of another world.
a world of “supposed to be’s” that really only exists in dreams
and mr. fly’s memory and the memories of his great generation.
he is a treasure and it does all of our hearts good for all that have taken notice
and looked for a way to contribute.
From the big heavy hitters to the individual people who worked without being asked
and went above and beyond, doing jobs that they really didn’t even have to do
and helping with the final touches like
Leslie Luttrell (Melanie’s sister in law),
Jozey Begeley with Team Never Quit,
I know I speak for the Luttrells when I say how amazing all of you are.
Please let this inspire many and begin a more prolific movement of
Giving our vets the dignity and love they’ve earned and so deserve.
Because it’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Many thanks to all the angels that made contributions:
The McNair Family
The Cushing Family
Scott Bean’s Landscaping
Please let me know if I forgot anyone— promise it’s
not intentional– just so many wonderful people, it’s hard to keep track and build a house in 2 months.