Planned College Stop Now a Long-term Stay in Area
published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette by Larry Parnass,
Staff Writer: Tuesday, September 06, 2005]
and Joanne Hilton (photo by Donna Cote)
In New Orleans this year, Dennis and Joanne Hilton helped their
local Baptist church celebrate its 100th anniversary. With
that milestone fresh in mind, they were drawn to a sign posted
the 200-year-old Holyoke Baptist Church.
who are among the many thousands displaced by Hurricane Katrina,
as strangers to worship at the Holyoke church on Sunday.
They left with
new friends - and later, an invitation to dinner. 'We went and
met the nicest congregation,' Dennis Hilton said Monday.
'The pastor said a prayer for us and for those in New Orleans.
This is a very warm community.'
to return to in New Orleans, the Hiltons will be going back to
the Holyoke church
for weeks to come - and perhaps months.
The couple, now living in a West Springfield motel, hope to settle
temporarily in the South Hadley area and to begin to rebuild
is just one of many such efforts. In interviews Monday, it was
apparent the Hiltons, who are in the
early 60s, approach
the challenge with humor and some financial resources. But
the couple's savings are limited, they say, and they expect to
hard-pressed before their lives return to normal.
arrived in the Valley late last month to bring his daughter
Layne, 21, to her final year at Mount Holyoke
College in South Hadley. They drove up in the car that the
to buy for Layne only when she made it to her final year
a kid's worst nightmare,' Joanne Hilton said. 'Parents take you
- and never leave.'
Now, they will
have to take the long-promised gift of a car back, having lost
their own vehicles to floodwaters
Joanne Hilton flew up to New England last week and expected
to her native New Orleans by now.
Hiltons continued to monitor TV news coverage Monday of Katrina,
to catch a glimpse of anything
in their own
neighborhood near the French Quarter - an area on relatively
higher ground that
was spared the worst of the damage. The Hiltons run
a guest house on Prytania Street.
from friends Monday that the guest house is standing, but appears
to have suffered
to be quite a challenge to get anybody to repair
that,' Dennis Hilton
said. 'The whole structure of the city has been damaged.
nephew drove past a property that the couple owns near the
Superdome complex. The nephew reported seeing
open. The Hiltons
suspect the building was looted.
on Canal Street told them he caught a glimpse of his own car
on a satellite
them her house was inundated by 15 feet of water.
guest house represents the Hiltons' sole source of income.
'I have some savings like anybody
mainly in the form of a retirement fund. He
has been self-employed for
25 years. 'I'm going to be retired whether
I like it or not.'
just poor people who lost everything,' Joanne Hilton said.
more pressing concern to the couple: the well-being of two
children they help care
for, who moved
to Houston with
immigrant from Latin America, before the
storm hit. The Hiltons are the children's
as parents; they have custody of them more
than half the time.
are attempting to locate a home in this area that can accommodate
Hilton said. 'After all, we are all part
the Hiltons hope to get back to New Orleans, the community that
to in the late
18th century, as part of a migration
from the Canary Islands.
moved to St. Bernard Parish, an early settlement before
new lands to the
west to American growth. Joanne Hilton
has been little
St. Bernard Parish because news crews
apparently cannot get in.
thousands and thousands of people trapped down there. I'm
going to be huge
the water pumped out,' she said.
says she remains somewhat numbed by the experience, even though
she well knew
risks her city
faced. 'Forty years
ago, I lived
through a flood of epic proportions,'
Joanne Hilton said, referring
to Hurricane Betsy
says he already misses his friends - and the
kind of on hold,' he said Monday, as the week-old
out on his
'It's sort of surreal.
It puts you in a state of
limbo, a state of shock. Who am I
now? ... It
is a wonderful
'It's our house,
so I guess we'll be going back,' he
levies. We've been
trying to get
the federal government
for years to help us with our
wetlands problem. ... It's
going to take the nation
to help us.'
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