Duluth family grateful for new roof in time of needAn appeal for help brings a generous response after a Duluth Heights man is injured working on his roof.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Amid last weekend’s heavy rains, there was an encouraging moment at Rich Sheehan and Julie Erickson’s house.
“(The house) stayed dry,” Erickson said on Saturday. “It was awesome. It was so nice to not have to put out pots and buckets.”
It was sunny, breezy and warm outside the house at Maple Grove Road and Robin Avenue on Saturday, but it had been raining two weeks earlier when Erickson’s boyfriend, Rich Sheehan, tried to adjust the tarp that was covering the house. Sheehan, who owns the house, fell from the roof, sustaining multiple injuries, and two days later he suffered a massive stroke.
The family was left with the challenge of the house, which they had been expanding to make more room for Sheehan’s son Zach, 16, and Erickson’s children Isaiah, 16, and Aliyah, 9. The city halted construction over concern the first story might not hold the weight of the second story. But the old roof already had been removed. It had rained in five times, Erickson said.
Sheehan had been laid off in October and had no insurance. He eventually will receive Social Security disability checks, but that won’t begin for five to six months. Erickson’s job at Kidz Kollege Learning Center in Hermantown is enough to cover utilities and regular bills, but not the mortgage or taxes, let alone construction and medical bills.
“Their world was upside down,” said Mike Sheehan of Coon Rapids, Minn., who is Rich’s father.
Bob Lindberg, who lives across the street, saw the situation and decided to help. He contacted the News Tribune, which told the story, and on May 27 volunteers were on the roof. Roofers worked from 8 in the morning until after 10 at night, Lindberg said, putting on plywood sheeting, finishing the trusses, putting on the wrap and tar paper. That was enough to keep the Memorial Day weekend rains out.
Last Tuesday, a crew finished that part of the job, installing shingles that Mike Sheehan had purchased.
Workers from Miller Roofing Co. and Builders Commonwealth were among those participating in the project, but help came in beyond the actual roof work, Lindberg said.
“There were neighbors that dropped off a lot of food,” he said. “A lot of donations of cash were made. People were driving by and handing $150 checks out the window, a hundred dollars in cash out the window. … There was huge support from the community.”
Meanwhile, Sheehan was transferred on Thursday to Essentia Health Duluth (the former Miller-Dwan) to begin rehabilitation, and he’s making progress.
“He’s doing better every day,” Erickson said. “He’s saying a few words now. He was this morning in occupational therapy moving his right arm with his shoulder muscle. That’s his paralyzed side, so that’s very good.”
Mike Sheehan, who is retired, said he will spend his weeks in Duluth, returning to Coon Rapids on weekends, for as long as necessary. He is taking responsibility for planning and obtaining needed permits and said he’s able to buy whatever materials are needed. Help still is needed for the work itself.
Lindberg said he hopes enough money can be raised to complete the siding of the house. At a minimum, ventilation through the roof is needed for the chimney and the bathroom plumbing.
Mike Sheehan said the family appreciates Lindberg’s efforts.
“Without Bob, we’d be lost,” he said. “We’d still be sitting there with no roof … no idea of what to do.”