The last time Lyle Ledford's name appeared in the Newton Kansan was about three years ago — he wrote a letter to the editor proposing to the woman of his dreams. She said yes.
That was late 2009. They are still together — though the last three years have been difficult. Now, the Florence couple is relying on one thing and one thing only — their love. After a house fire, it's all they have.
"This is true love," said Ginger Ledford, Lyle's wife. "It's stronger than this."
A house fire Dec. 9 destroyed everything the couple owned — everything except a small pickup. The rent-to-own home in Florence they lived in still stands at 408 W Seventh, a burned out shell of a building. Their meager collection of movies in the driveway, destroyed by the heat of the fire. This Christmas, the Ledfords have nothing but each other.
"This is another Christmas that was put on hold," Lyle Ledford said. "It seems like the peat few years that there is something that keeps us from getting what we want for each other. It's not a big deal for me to not get a gift, but I want to get something for my wife."
Last year it was a lack of work — Lyle is a contractor who does home renovation. His truck wasn't running, and as a result, the job he was working went away. He scraped enough cash together to put in a new transmission by himself — then the engine blew. That's now fixed as well.
Just as they were moving forward, looking forward to Christmas in their own home, a fire broke out.
A cigarette started a mattress smoldering. Lyle put that out, and took the mattress outside — sitting it on the concrete porch in front of the house.
But the ordeal wasn't over — it was only beginning.
"I woke up and the porch was just a big glow," Lyle Ledord said.
He woke up Ginger. They grabbed Lucky, the family dog, and ran outside.
"I don't remember much," Ginger Ledford said. "I remember the windows blowing out, the curtains igniting and being outside."
Lyle says she fell down, and he had to drag her to safety. She doesn't remember, but the scratches and bruises tell that part of the story for her.
Right now the couple is living with a friend, though Lucky must stay in the basement — rather than with the family.
And as Lyle lives out one of those situations that most would start asking "what's next," he knows. And it's not good. The job he's on right now is winding down — and there's not another contract on the table.
"I need another job," Lyle Ledford said. "I'm working on a house, trying to get it done. But there is nothing after that."
The couple doesn't know where to turn — they only know they need a little help. They inquired at the bank which carried the mortgage on the home about starting a charitable fund if others might want to help. But they have nothing to start the fund with. They did get a commitment from Tampa State Bank that if someone walked forward with a donation, a fund would be started.
For now, however, they await a Christmas miracle — and hope next Christmas will be one they can celebrate in a home.
"It would be a great Christmas if we had a place to call home," Ginger Ledford said.