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Newfoundland and Labrador

Port aux Basques family recovers precious hockey jerseys lost to Fiona

Peggy and Lloyd Savery lost their home and everything in it when post-tropical storm Fiona swept through southwest Newfoundland. But slowly, bit by bit, some things are coming back.

In a city torn to shreds, there is a group of dedicated volunteers who are still sifting through debris more than four months after the storm hit land. And last month, one of them made a discovery that put a little faith in the hearts of the struggling Savery family.

A local, Richard Spencer, found a pair of hockey jerseys that belonged to Savery’s adult son – valuable keepsakes that were kept in the Savery home for years. A third jersey was recovered on Tuesday.

“We were really excited because we thought we’d never see that again,” Peggy Savery told CBC News.

Savery was staying with her son David and new grandchild when someone texted her with a picture of the shirts found near the shore where her house once stood.

“It was really overwhelming and emotional because it was a really tough road,” she said. “I probably found Christmas the most difficult thing to deal with. When I received that, it was almost like a sign to me. … It’s going up.”

A house on the edge of a cliff and the same house next to it destroyed.
The photo on the left, taken at the summit of Fiona, has been shared globally and featured in media around the world. To the right was what was left when the storm subsided. (Rene Roy/Wreckhouse Press, Malone Mullin/CBC)

The images of the Savery house are now famous: a blue bungalow with the basement ripped out, jutting over the edge of a cliff. It has become a symbol of the wreck of Fiona.

David Savery played junior hockey in Ontario from a young age. He played varsity hockey for the Royal Military College, Kingston, which made his parents beam with pride. When the home was destroyed by massive waves and a powerful storm surge, the jerseys from David’s hockey trip were among the many valuable items that were washed out to sea.

The shirts were found in harsh condition, ripped from moving debris and exposure to the elements, but Peggy Savery doesn’t mind. Their home is gone and they still have no permanent home. After losing almost everything in the storm, she was just glad to have some fond memories to hold on to.

“We lost everything. So everything I’m surrounding myself with now is brand new and it doesn’t feel like mine,” she said. “So when I find something or someone finds something that’s mine, it’s a feeling I can’t even express. Because it’s like a little piece of me I’m getting back that I thought I’d never see again.”

Pick through the rubble

Those feelings, Savery describes, motivate volunteers like Tammy Kettle to keep digging through the rubble.

Kettle spends a few hours each week sifting through the rubble, looking for anything that might belong to the people of Port aux Basques.

It started when her neighbor – Savery’s nephew – decided to dive in the bay to see what he could find. Since then, Kettle has been on a mission to save whatever she can.

“It’s just who I am,” she said. “I just help wherever I can. Especially when such a riot is going on.”

Portrait of Josh Savery alongside his parents Peggy and Lloyd.
Josh Savery, left, with his parents Peggy, center, and Lloyd Savery moved to Port aux Basques to live with relatives after the storm. (Waqas Chughtai/CBC News)

Most commonly, she finds family photos torn from frames and photo albums as homes were hit by massive storm surges and swept toward the sea. Among the most valuable items found was a box with an inscription on it. Kettle discovered it was the writing of a 73-year-old woman that was washed into the sea and killed. She could return it to the woman’s husband.

Your efforts are appreciated by everyone in town, Peggy Savery said.

“I really appreciate it and I know all the people who have things that she found really appreciate it. I mean it goes way beyond that. I hate seeing how she wastes all her time. But I think in their eyes it’s not a waste of time.”

It’s not a waste of time, Kettle replied.

“I just feel guilty when I see her doing all this,” Savery said. “But I appreciate it every time she sends me a picture and asks me if that’s mine because I still have hope that a little thing will show up and it’s something that means something again.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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