Night of comedy aims to help North Strabane couple who lost home in landslide
Doug and Suzanne Grimes are paying a mortgage on a house that’s no longer there.
Their North Strabane home was ruined by a landslide in June 2018 and declared unsafe. It was demolished a few months later.
The couple is now saddled with a second mortgage, storage costs and over a year of unexpected legal fees.
“The experience has certainly been traumatic,” said Doug Grimes, who is the Peters police chief and has been in law enforcement for 35 years.
Family members and friends have created a fundraiser on Friday night at the Broughton Fire Hall on Cochrans Mill Road in Pleasant Hills. The “Landslide Comedy Relief Funny Fundraiser” features headliner John Evans from NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.” Tom Musial of WDVE radio is the opening act and David Kaye, seen on “Comedy Central,” will emcee.
Their North Strabane house, where they lived for three years, was appraised at $400,000, Grimes said. The home sat on a hill.
“It was a great view,” Grimes said. “And it’s not just us. There are other families affected by this. Going back there and not seeing the house. This view breaks our heart.”
They had a few weeks to empty out the property and retain their belongings. They found another home, which they are also paying for.
There is pending litigation.
“I hope the right thing gets done,” Doug Grimes said. “We lost an entire summer because we didn’t have a lot of our belongings. It is not unusual for me to call my wife and for her to be in tears.”
One day he called her and said she was upset that their insurance company wanted the destroyed house covered, despite no physical structure. They eventually convinced the company that they can’t buy insurance on a house that doesn’t exist.
Between June 14 and 19 of last year, the home dropped 30 feet. By August, the home was condemned, and it was demolished in October 2018.
Grimes was not at home when the landslide occurred. His wife, who was home, initially thought she heard a thunderstorm.
“But it wasn’t raining,” he said.
In Pennsylvania, many homeowners insurance policies do not cover landslides, earthquakes and floods, said David Buono, consumer liaison for the Pennsylvania Insurance Department in Harrisburg. Landslide insurance can be hard to find, he said.
Grimes said their destroyed home was where they planned to live in retirement.
“You could not plan for something like this,” he said. “This was to be my retirement home in a few years, but I may have to work for the rest of my life. Through my career I have helped people who have suffered a loss. We are thankful for our family and friends who have gone above and beyond to help with this fundraiser.”
“Comedy will help us,” he said. “We will get through it. It’s not like it’s a life-or-death health issue. We have to deal with it and spend less money. There is an emotional attachment to this house. And there are times we wonder, why did this happen?”
His sister, Susan George, said she and her older brothers and their spouses have organized the fundraiser.
“We want to help them because they are in great financial stress,” George said in an email. “We have received many great donation items but really want to promote the event.”
She said they are so appreciative of the help from the community.
Greg Gold, one of the owners of Miller’s Ace Hardware in Peters and Bethel Park, said he wanted to help.
“Doug is a friend of mine,” Gold said. “It’s an unfortunate situation they are in right now. They’ve been dealt a bad hand of cards. This is a way for me to show support. I have some experience in planning fundraisers. Doug has helped so many people in the community so now it is time for us to help him.”
Dave Santel of Santel Landscape and Design in Bethel Park helped get sponsorships and donations.
“I try to help people whenever I can,” said Santel, who lost two people close to him in two weeks’ time. “I get choked up when I talk about this because Doug is such a class guy. This is what we should do for one another. Anyone I asked to donate, they were more than willing to help.”
Tickets are $45, $40 in advance.
Doors open at 6 p.m. Show is at 8
Details: 412-345-3811 or [email protected]
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, [email protected] or via Twitter .