GRAND LAKE, Colo. — When you talk about great love stories, theirs is pretty special.
“Meeting him changed everything,” Ann Schamberger said.
It was a chance meeting that came from a new job overseas.
“The Army sent me down to the National Security Agency where I learned to repair certain equipment that I went over to Germany and snooped on the Russians with,” Dick Schamberger said as he laughed. “From ’65 to ’69 I was stationed outside Nuremberg.”
They've since spent 48 years together. Eventually, life would bring Dick and Ann Schamberger back to the states where they ultimately retired in Grand Lake, Colorado.
“We’ve been here since June 2010 full time,” Ann Schamberger said.
For a decade or so, it was pretty quiet. Dick made furniture out of wood, and Ann made pillows and cushions as a master rug hooker.
Both are active in the community, with Dick sitting on the board of Habitat for Humanity, building seven houses over the years.
“The one we are finishing is a single father with three children,” Dick Schamberger said. “The one in Hot Sulphur Springs is another single mother with two children. It’s a no interest mortgage that they can afford. We’re moving people out of very bad housing into a stable community.”
Then, last fall, Dick and Ann Schamberger's own housing stability went up in smoke.
The East Troublesome Fire was burning nearby.
“In the morning, I had a very bad feeling,” Dick Schamberger said. “So, the first thing I did was went and got the camera, walked completely through the house and took pictures of everything.”
When Dick Schamberger pulled a photo of his family off the wall of their mountain home, he had no idea it would be one of the last things he did there.
“That’s my grandmother and her sister,” Dick Schamberger said, showing the photo. “You know, nobody told us we had to leave yet. Nobody told us to evacuate.”
“I was in the linen closet, and I was grabbing towels and decided to look around and out the window, and I saw the fire getting ready to come up the mountain” Ann Schamberger said. “And I screamed, ‘We’re out of here. Now.'"
“The smoke was so thick, I even had to stop a couple times,” Dick Schamberger said. “She’s right behind me. All of our neighbors are behind her.”
“It was one ball of fire,” Ann Schamberger said.
“I have photographs of me with my brother and my mother, you know, stuff like that’s all gone,” Dick Schamberger said as he walked around the charred foundation of his former home. “This was the garage. That was my shop and overhead was the living quarters.”
Their dream home had been reduced to ash.
“It was beautiful,” Dick Schamberger said. “We had the morning deck because we had coffee out there when the sun was coming over the mountain.”
Despite their ages — Dick Schamberger is 77 and Ann Schamberger is 81 — they are committed to rebuilding.
“See where the new stakes are,” Dick Schamberger said as he pointed out the location of their new home. “We figure we want to stay here as long as we absolutely can.”
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For now, they’re living in a small house they purchased in town.
“We felt we would be better off taking money out of our retirement investments and buying a house to tide us over,” Ann Schamberger said.
“There were 18 houses available in Grand County at that time,” Dick Schamberger said. “Eighteen houses, but there were only eight under $1 million dollars.”
Eventually, they’ll use their insurance money and what they put into this house to start over on the mountain for their great love story to be continued.
“As I’ve said for years, ‘I’m too busy to get old,’” Ann Schamberger said.
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