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Issue of October 15, 2014
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Fire victim amazed by co-workers, strangers' response

June 04, 2014 | 10:24 AM

Talking about a fire that destroyed her home is still difficult for Rhonda Newbern, but the loss has shown her how generous people are.

"I've had strangers give me money and gift cards," Newbern said last week, about a month after the 1894 two-story farmhouse she shared with her "Aunt Julia" and her husband, Mike Bosler, was destroyed.

Newbern had left work at 3 p.m. on April 28 (she generally works until 5 p.m. at Culver's of Corydon) and was the one who discovered the fire.

"I could see smoke as I got close to the house," Newbern said, but initially she wasn't sure where it was coming from. "I walked inside and it was full of smoke. I went through each room trying to determine where the smoke was coming from."

She found the source when she reached her room, which Newbern described as "black." The fire, which received a dose of oxygen when Newbern opened the bedroom door, quickly spread.

That's when Newbern called 911.

Newbern said she knew no one else was home; in fact, her aunt had just left the residence 22 minutes before Newbern arrived, she said.

The farmhouse, Newbern said, was built by Josiah Lincoln, the brother of Abraham Lincoln. She said the structure wasn't wired for today's world but everything appeared to be working fine. However, the night before the fire, a thunderstorm had rolled through, and a burst of lightning had knocked out electricity to a neighbor's residence.

"There are things that can't be replaced," Newbern said, adding that she's extremely grateful for the generosity of people like her employers, Frank and Sarah Spanopoulos, and co-workers, including one, Josh Bleecker, who signed over his entire paycheck to her. Just talking about it brings tears to her eyes.

Others whom she has met in the year that she's worked at Culver's have helped out, like Corydon dentist Dawn Durbin and her husband, Kevin, who bought her a new bed.

"I never dreamed how good they'd be," Newbern said with her southern accent that lends to her nickname, Country, given to her by those in the Emmaus Community. "Customers have brought me store gift cards."

A jar for donations was placed at Culver's, too.

Newbern is temporarily living with her mother, and the Boslers are having a house built. Newbern said the family had insurance on the structure but not its contents. An account was established at First Harrison Bank for the Boslers; those wishing to donate can write "Benefit fund for Julia Bosler" in their check's memo line.

When asked if there is anything specific she still needs, Newbern said clothes for all seasons but specifically winter. While it's not even officially summer, Newbern said she no longer has a winter coat or other warm clothes.

Her donors are too numerous to list but Newbern wants them to know she appreciates their generosity.

"I realize the customers (at Culver's) really do like me," she said.

  1. print email
    June 05, 2014 | 12:03 PM

    Abraham Lincoln only had one brother

    who died young in Kentucky before the family
    moved to Indiana.
    Wouldn't Josiah be Thomas Lincoln's (Abe's father)

    Larry Pfeiffer
  2. print email
    June 05, 2014 | 01:56 PM

    Incorrect information was inadvertently provided for this story. Josiah Lincoln, who settled in Blue River Township on 160 acres, was Abraham's uncle.

    Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, editor
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