- A 94-year-old WWII veteran lost his home in a fire.
- His neighbors set up a GoFundMe page to help him rebuild his home.
- Most of the money they have raised came from strangers.
As he tries to rebuild his life after losing his home in a fire, a World War II veteran has the support of his neighborhood — as well as strangers’.
Paul Roberts, 94, eventually escaped to safety, but his home in Ship Bottom, New Jersey, burned down last month, leaving him homeless.
Roberts told TODAY:
“It took everything I have. And that’s hard.”
But Roberts, who served with the Marines in Nagasaki after the United States dropped the atomic bomb there, has gotten a lot of help in rebuilding his life.
Rich Obermayer, a retired firefighter who lives across the street from Roberts, shares a bond with him. Rich’s daughter, Erin, grew close to the veteran after spending more time with him during the pandemic.
Roberts’ positive attitude in the aftermath of the fire, Erin says, astounds her.
“I love Paul. I tell all my friends about him. I’m, like, ‘Hey, my friend, my 94-year-old friend,’” Erin said. “Once I came and saw Paul, first thing I said to him, I was like, ‘Paul, I’m so sorry.’ He said, “Not as sorry as I am.’ Who do you know that their house burns down and they laugh about it?”
Erin and her father helped Roberts by setting up a GoFundMe campaign, which has so far raised over $137,000, the majority of which, they claim, came from strangers.
Rich says the comments they get are just amazing to read, like one that says, “Thank you for serving the country.” He notes that Marines from throughout the country have donated.
Roberts loves to live alone and has found a tiny apartment close to his house. He’s thinking about rebuilding his house, but he’s not sure he has the funds. Despite the uncertainties, he maintains a cheerful outlook.
“It’s been three weeks,” Roberts said. He chuckled as he continued, “You either live with it or you don’t. “What are you going to do? You can’t be moping around forever, you know?”
Roberts feels himself to be quite fortunate.
“I always thought I had lived a charmed life,” he said. “I must’ve had a guardian angel.”