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Evacuees share stories of fleeing Florida

Bill and Shirley Clark of Englewood, Florida left home not knowing what havoc the monster storm would wreak on their town, on their home.

“All we could do was pray,” Shirley Clark said.

And pray they did.

The Clarks are among the many that are waiting out the storm at the Courtyard in Troy.

They are there with their pup and another they are puppy-sitting for friends.

“Our friends were leaving for Africa, a much anticipated trip they have had planned for a long time,” Shirley said. “With the hurricane heading right toward Florida, they were grounded, but we brought their dog along with us and we’ll keep it until they return from Africa.”

When the storm turned and missed Englewood Sunday, the Clarks’ prayers for their community were answered, with maybe just a little help from the Indians¬– perhaps, the Seminoles

“There’s an Indian mound, a burial place, in Englewood and the local lore is that nothing bad will happen to Englewood because it is protected by the Indian mound,” Clark said. “I don’t know if there’s any truth to that but it does seem, at times that, that we are a charmed town.”

Perhaps, it’s the Clarks that are charmed.

While on a cruise, they met Trojan Pete Jordan and his wife and, when they fled from Irma and landed in Troy, the Clarks and the Jordans were reunited.

“Pete and his wife and friends have adopted us and our friends, Chuck and Wanda Sayre and Helen Funk,” Bill said. “They have taken care of our needs. They have fed us and showed us around the area. We could not have asked for anyone to be so kind and caring.  If it had not been for Pete, I don’t know where we would be.”

At the age of 96, there’s not a lot the Clarks’ friend Helen Funk has not experienced. A hurricane that threatened the entire state of Florida was one of those things.

“Miss” Helen, as she should honorably be called, relaxed with her feet propped on her bed at the Courtyard Monday and looked back at the most harrowing experience in her life.

Of course, Hurricane Irma was of concern as it “eyed” Florida on Sunday. But Helen was warm and safe and she was not afraid for herself, concerned only for those left behind in the state she now calls home.

But she remembered the time when Old Mother Nature wrecked havoc in her Central Kentucky home.

The rains came in torrents and the floodwaters rose and her life was in jeopardy.

“It was 1937 and I was just a teenager and we were trying to get to our grandmother’s,” Helen said. “We were in a skiff and the floodwaters were high and rough. The waves were huge. We were being tossed all around and I thought that skiff was going over.

“There were others in the skiff, Catholics, and Hail Marys were being said. It was a very scary time – when I was in the flood.”

Helen has been blessed to witness the many things that she has. She married a young sailor, a Seabee, and two days later he was off to “the war,” World War II. She didn’t see him for two years. Their love endured.  He came home and worked for the city police in their Kentucky hometown. They worked together for four years at the county jail. He as the jailer and she as the “jailer’s wife.”

“My husband became the county judge and I worked as licensed practical nurse,” Helen said. “Where I was worked was called a Band-Aid station but it was more than that. Surgeries were done there.”

Helen now lives with her daughter and her husband in Englewood and she loves Florida.

But every now and then, her heart goes back to Kentucky.

Hurricane Irma is her first experience with a storm like that and she is proud that she experienced it from afar and in Pike County, Alabama.

“This is the first time that I’ve see cotton,” she said, with a smile. “It’s beautiful. This is a pretty place and everyone has been so nice. I’ll always remember being here.”

Helen and her family thanked the people at the Courtyard and all of Pike County for their hospitality. “It was almost like being a home.”