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New Kensington family uses holiday to truly give thanks

| Thursday, Nov. 22, 2007

John Kowalski had a horrific Father's Day.

Fire destroyed the split-entry home along Beamer Avenue in New Kensington that Kowalski and his wife, Kathy, had built 30 years ago.

To make matters worse, the couple could have lost their son, Eric, in the blaze. He was sleeping soundly when the fire erupted about 12:15 p.m. A neighbor rushed into the house to rescue him, pounding on his bedroom door to awaken him.

The family, which includes another son, Alex, has been living in a home Kathy Kowalski's parents owned along Russell Drive in Lower Burrell.

But rather than focus their attention on the difficulties associated with the fire, the family is taking stock of the positives in their life.

In a letter sent to the Valley News Dispatch, the family thanked several people and groups for their support:

= Neighbor Ron Knapp, "who got our sleeping son out of the house -- with no injury."

= Family, friends and neighbors, "who stood with us for hours watching the fire department pour water on a relentless fire."

= New Kensington's fire department, "who salvaged precious photos and important papers while risking their lives in the blaze."

= The family's insurance company, "for their advice, support and arriving the day after the fire with a check in hand."

= Contractor Ron Zampogna, who built the original house, "for promptly rebuilding our home again after 30 years even though he had a full schedule of commitments.

= Mount St. Peter Roman Catholic Church and everyone else "who helped us physically, mentally and financially."

"We count our many blessings as we truly experience the holiday of Thanksgiving," the family wrote.

John Kowalski said the family plans to celebrate the holiday with family on his wife's side.

"It's the time of year to be thankful," Kowalski said, "and the main thing is that we want to thank everyone."

He said the family hopes to be in the new house within the next two months. They're rebuilding on the same lot.

"It's actually on the original foundation," Zampogna said, adding that the new house will be much like the first one.

"The new house is very similar except they added 10 feet to the left side to make the bedrooms a little larger," Zampogna said.

As for taking on the project despite having a full schedule, Zampogna said, "It was a pleasant experience the first time around, and I knew they were in a bind."

"The house is being replaced," Zampogna said. "Everything else can be replaced except for their son. In my opinion, that's what they have the most to be thankful for."

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