COLUMBIA TWP. — When WW II Veteran Chinky Cucco built his family house in 1948, all he had was an open plot of land, a ninth-grade education and a book on “how to build houses.”
Yet for the next 65 years, his family lived on the land, planted gardens in the yard, had wedding receptions in the living room and settled down only feet from Cucco’s house, even after Chinky and his wife Alberta had died.
But one week ago, over half a century of memories was destroyed in a fire that burned the Cucco family home to the ground.
Around 6:30 p.m. Jan. 6, a fire started in Cucco’s house at 27139 Sprague Road — now owned and lived in by his son Nick — that ravaged through the house, leaving it in rubble and killing two dachshunds — Paz and Squirmy — and a cat Blessed.
Columbia Township Fire Department was assisted by firefighters from Eaton and Olmsted townships and together they were able to get the fire under control in two hours. Columbia Township is still investigating the cause of the fire, according to the department.
As Nick Cucco and his family looked through the ruins of the fire, they were able to salvage burned photos — snapshots of their family through the years at the house and their auto wrecking store, which they owned next door.
“I’m really sad driving by here. You think of all the memories,” said Nick Cucco’s niece April Roberts of the ruined house.
However, in the days following the fire, Roberts and the rest of her close-knit family, have decided to turn to the future and set up two funds to help to put a roof over her uncle’s head again.
“I’m more concerned about my uncle,” Roberts said, explaining that Nick Cucco, who has lived his entire life in the house on Sprague Road, never had insurance on the building. He also is disabled, cannot work and must go to dialysis treatments three times a week, she said.
Since the fire, Nick Cucco has been living in a camper on the property, attempting to look through the rubble for his possessions.
For Roberts, who credits her uncle for her love of music, gardening and Tolkein, that the fire happened to the man she calls “one of my best friends” is especially devastating.
It is because her love for him — and his sickness — that Roberts said she has set up two funds in an attempt to raise the money so that her uncle doesn’t have to rebuild the house.
“There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him,” Roberts said, adding that she and her mother have been looking into ways to rebuild the house from scratch. But, she added, “You don’t even know where to start.”
Last week Roberts set up a Paypal account online where she said people have been donating money to help her uncle. She also has set up a fund at FirstMerit Bank under the name “Benevolent Fund of Nick Cucco.”
Roberts said she and her family are heartened by the clothing, furniture and even some money they have received so far. However they have a long way to go before they can rebuild the house.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said.
If you want to help
Donate to the Nick Cucco fund online, or ask to donate to “The Benevolent Fund of Nick Cucco” at a any FirstMerit Bank.