Family still searching for home

Published 6:37 pm Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Siegmund Odom said he hands out twenty-five cent pieces to every child he encounters. He hands them out because he wasn’t allowed to do that in Vietnam, where he served two tours as a United States Marine.

“I probably have given out four or five dollars a day, at the most…in the grocery stores, at Wal-Mart,” he said. “Just ask people about the ‘Quarter Man.’ They’ll tell you.”

But ask him about the house he watched burn on S. Pine Street, the house he purchased in 1977, the house where he lost everything he’d ever owned, and you will see a man’s heart break.

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“I’m hurting,” said Odom.

Greenville firefighters responded to a fire at Odom’s former home on June 11. The fire, caused by old electrical wiring, quickly consumed the 126-year-old structure leaving behind a blackened shell of charred wood and little else.

“There were a few things left,” Odom’s son, Sam, said. Siegmund, his wife, his son and daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren were living in the house. “A few pictures, some plates and glass items, but there’s not much beyond that to salvage.”

Siegmund said the Thursday of the fire he laid down to rest in the bedroom.

He heard a popping sound and looked up to find the curtains consumed in flames.

At the same time daughter-in-law Charmaine Odom was awakened by her daughter, as was Sam, who quickly grabbed a fire extinguisher.

“She was screaming the ‘porch is on fire,’” said Charmaine.

Sam battled the fire for a few minutes before giving up. The fire had spread too fast across the front of the home, said Charmaine.

“We just tried to grab what we could,” said Charmaine. “We just wanted to make sure everybody was out of the house.”

Sam, his wife and children have been staying with Donna and John Smith on Fort Dale Rd. the past two weeks, while the elder Odoms are at Camellia Court.

The outpouring from the community has been tremendous, said Charmaine.

A trust fund has been set up at Whitney Bank for the family.

“John and Donna are like a God-send and we thank everyone who’s donated money and clothes,” she said.

Siegmund has been busy trying to find a new home for the family of seven, but the prospects are slim.

Starting over is hard, said Siegmund.

Sam said he has tried to convince his father and mother to leave Greenville.

“Something like this, I think the Lord’s trying to tell you something…it’s time to move on, as much as it hurts,” he said. “But I’m going to miss that old house.”

Siegmund lost his wallet, a coin collection, and paper money he’d gathered from other countries as both a marine and a pipeline worker.

“But I’m not going to stop giving out quarters,” he said.