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Newfoundland family finds hockey jerseys lost during post-tropical storm Fiona

Jerseys found washed up on the beach by man who used to live in family’s home
A resident and search and rescue worker examine the destroyed remains of a home in Port aux Basques, N.L., Monday, Sept.26, 2022. Three tupperware bins hold all that remains of Peggy Savery’s life and home since post-tropical storm Fiona ravaged her Newfoundland community and swept away most of her possessions last September. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Three tupperware bins hold all that remains of Peggy Savery’s life and home since post-tropical storm Fiona ravaged her Newfoundland community and swept away most of her possessions last September.

But those bins now have some unexpected new additions — three hockey jerseys with strong sentimental value she thought were lost for good.

Savery, who grew up in Port aux Basques, N.L., and retired to her hometown with her husband four years ago, lost their home when it was destroyed by a massive wave generated by the deadly storm.

She and her husband fled, leaving behind almost all their possessions, including his glasses and wallet. She said she has accepted that many of their treasured belongings will not be recovered.

But in the first week of January, while Savery was spending time with her son David and her one-year-old granddaughter in Ottawa, she was surprised to get a message from someone who had found two hockey jerseys that belonged to her family. A third one surfaced a few days later.

The jerseys belonged to David when he played hockey in school and in military college.

Local resident Richard Spencer made the lucky discovery while hunting in early January.

While walking near the Mouse Island shoreline on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, he came across a white hockey jersey sporting red and blue stripes and the name SAVERY on the back. He found another one later the same day and didn’t have to look far to find their rightful owner.

“I know the Saverys and their plight, as the house that they lost originally belonged to my family and was my childhood home,” he said.

“My folks sold it to the Saverys in 2019 and they began to make it their forever home. So we kind of share a bond in that regard. My dad built the house himself with my grandfather.”

Spencer brought the jerseys home in his kayak, dried them out and got in touch with Savery.

Spencer’s message, Savery said, sparked an emotional reaction in the whole family that is nearly impossible to describe.

“(David) was really excited because it’s something he never thought he’d see again,” she said.

“I think he was more excited for us because he saw what it meant for us to get something back… It’s exciting just to have something and it’s exciting to know that people care enough to take the time to collect these things that are frozen in the ground and look like it’s not worth anything.”

The clean, folded jerseys now sit safely in a bin containing other items that collectively form a tapestry of pre-Fiona memories. They include a charm bracelet that Savery’s father gave her mom and a candle holder her husband’s nephew found in the waters near where her house once stood.

“My dad bought it for me years and years and years ago before I was even married,” she said of the candle holder. “And it was really important to me, because I remember going shopping with him and how excited I was that he bought it for me. … It was pretty exciting to get that back. I didn’t think I’d see it.”

Among the items she has given up hope of finding is her engagement ring, which she wasn’t wearing when Fiona struck.

“At this point there’s so many little things that I know I won’t find,” she said with a sigh. “There’s not one thing that’s any more important than the other. Just anything at all, at this point — it’s nice to find anything.”

Savery, along with her husband, another son and their two cats, have been living with their niece and her husband since the storm washed her house away.

“They haven’t complained, we haven’t argued, but it’s got to be tough on them as well,” she said of the relatives hosting them.

She said the wait for new housing is proving frustrating as she waits for the government to offer guidance on next steps. The insurance company denied her family’s claim after an eight-week wait and they couldn’t apply for government assistance until that denial letter arrived, she said.

Savery said her life is in limbo right now. She feels fortunate to be with family who love her and she is grateful for their help, but she would like to have her own home and put the tragedy of the storm behind her.

“It’s really difficult not to have some direction,” Savery said. “I’m trying not to get upset and lose my cool, but every day becomes harder and harder and harder.”

—Hina Alam and Lyndsay Armstrong, The Canadian Press

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