Home of fallen N.S. naval officer now housing family displaced by fire

Home of fallen N.S. naval officer now housing family displaced by fire

A family that lost their home in a recent Eastern Passage fire is overwhelmed with community support that includes a roof over their head that once belonged to Abbigail Cowbrough.

Cowbrough was one of six military members on HMCS Fredericton who died in a helicopter crash in the Mediterranean in April 2020.

Rachel Carey, her teenage son and her boyfriend were among the six people who lost everything when the duplex burned down, and have now moved into Cowbrough's home.

"Looking around the house, everywhere you look, there are pictures of Abbigail and just her life," said Carey. "We feel truly blessed."

Tanya Shewchuk, Cowbrough's mom, said she knew she had to step in when she heard about the duplex fire on Tuesday.

Paul Palmeter/CBC
Paul Palmeter/CBC

Shewchuk has been offering Cowbrough's Eastern Passage home to people who really need it for some time now.

She said it's one of the best ways she can think of to honour Cowbrough's memory and support the community she loved.

"I'm really, really proud to be able to open that space for them," Shewchuk said. "It's not me that's doing this. It's Abigail that is able to provide this for these people."

A family displaced when Hurricane Fiona landed in the province had been staying there, Shewchuk said, but left just days before the fire. Right now, there's a man who lost his home in a different fire staying in his RV in the driveway.

Donations of funds, gift cards and offers of support have already started pouring in for everyone affected by the Eastern Passage fire.

Carey said no one in the family was injured. But they didn't have insurance, meaning a long and expensive journey to get back on their feet.

"Eastern Passage is a very well-knit community, they do whatever they need to do to support those in need in any situation… It's what they do. I would do the same if it was my neighbour," Carey said.

Carey is hopeful they can find housing in the community, although is unsure how likely that is in the midst of an ongoing housing shortage.

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The family will be able to stay at least until January, Shewchuk said. She is planning to find them a tree and some decorations to brighten up the house for the holidays.

Shewchuk is also raising money for Carey's family through the foundation set up in Cowbrough's name, and is hoping to work with area MLA Barbara Adams to eventually get a registry of larger items for the families.

Adams attended a fundraising trail walk for the displaced residents on the Shearwater Flyer Trail on Sunday afternoon. Adams said it's amazing to see the "cycle of love" that was extended to Cowbrough's family now help others.

"It's just helping the healing process for everybody who has been involved," Adams said, adding that many people who've dropped off donations also had dealt with fires.

CBC
CBC

Adams said the biggest message she wants the families to know is everyone is "here for the long haul."

All the donations are being funnelled through Adams's office. She said plenty of clothing has been donated, but there are other pressing needs.

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