HOLIDAY — As a former cement layer in Michigan, Earnest Conlin knew what it would take to repair a stucco house hit by a speeding car.
The house in question was his own, on Holiday Lake Drive, where he and his wife, Bonnie, have lived for 23 years. But Earnest is 81 now and in poor health, so he couldn't do it himself. They had no insurance.
Enter Rick Dannenmiller. He saw news reports of the police chase that ended June 6 with a Pontiac in the Conlins' living room and the arrest of Levar Darcy Murray, 22.
Dannenmiller, the owner of Paul Davis Restoration of Pasco County, knew the whole front third of the house would have to be rebuilt — a $30,000 proposition, involving new wood, frame, stucco, masonry, windows, garage doors, exterior and interior doors, windows, light fixtures and structural improvements.
"I thought, I'm going to go home tonight with my house intact," he said. "How could I not help fix up theirs?"
Dannenmiller called his crew together. If he donated the materials and volunteered his time, would they volunteer theirs? The answer was a resounding yes.
Dannenmiller took a liking to the Conlins, who reminded him of his own grandparents. The Conlins had no idea how they could afford the repairs. He told them he would do the job for free.
"I said to myself, this is too wonderful to believe," Earnest Conlin said.
He still didn't as he looked over the engineer's plans. And he still didn't when the crew started work Monday.
It wasn't until Tuesday — when Dannenmiller presented paperwork guaranteeing that he would never seek a payment — that the couple believed it.
"It's just beautiful what they're doing," Bonnie Conlin said. "They're just like family."
Last night, after almost two months of living in a boarded-up house, the Conlins went to sleep with a real front wall.
Dannenmiller said he expects the job to take a couple of weeks, actually less time than a paid project. And he issued a new advisory to any driver that might try crashing into their house again:
"We're pouring it with solid concrete."
Isaac Arnsdorf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6232.