Walla Walla woman’s childhood home built by late father vanishes in flood
UMATILLA COUNTY, Ore. — A Walla Walla woman’s childhood home, which her late father built more than 40 years ago, completely vanished over the weekend during one of the worst floods in the area’s history.
Alexandrea Frazure, 48, said her dad, Richard Finch, built the house with his brother along the foothills of the Blue Mountains in 1978. It’s was a two-story log house with a basement located right along Mill Creek near Camp Kiwanis.
The house was damaged during the Walla Walla Valley’s infamous flood of 1996. Alexandrea’s father was able to restore it and continued living there for decades. She said he loved the small community where he lived.
Six months ago, Alexandrea’s father passed away, and she and her brother inherited the house. She said it was more than the place she was raised. It was her father’s legacy.
Last week, warm temperatures and rain caused the worst flooding the Walla Walla Valley has seen since ’96. Mill Creek was one of the first waterways to overflow.
When Alexandrea and her husband drove up Mill Creek Road to check on the house Thursday night, the creek was flowing through the property and there was about three feet of water in the basement.
“My husband said, ‘Be prepared. I think we might lose this house,” she said.
Unfortunately, her dad didn’t have flood insurance.
That day, she and her husband tried pumping the water out of the basement — but the worse of the flooding was yet to come.
High water prevented them from getting to the house on Friday. When they came back on Saturday, what they found was devastating.
“We came up around the corner and my dad’s house was completely gone … [The creek] washed the whole entire house away, even the foundation,” Alexandrea said. “There’s a car sitting where my dad’s home used to be.”
Alexandrea said there were no words to explain the feeling when she saw that the house had disappeared.
On Sunday, Alexandrea and her brother said goodbye to the home by spreading some of their father’s ashes where it once stood.
Alexandrea fondly remembers it as the “party place” for her family, and that it held countless memories.
She said she had to put the house on the market after her father’s death, but the decision wasn’t an easy one.
“It was bittersweet because we really didn’t want to sell it, but we knew we had to to get everything paid up,” Alexandrea said. “The gentleman that was going to buy it was really excited about it. So we thought, gosh, we’ll be able to drive by dad’s house and check on it and see new life in it; someone who could, you know, appreciate it.”
A neighbor was able to salvage some logs from the house, which Alexandrea plans to keep and build something with in her father’s memory.
A silver lining
Soon after the tragedy, Alexandrea went to her local Albertsons in Walla Walla to get some groceries. When she went to pay, the young clerk asked how her day was going.
“Usually, I’m always like, ‘oh, it’s great,’ and I just kind of unloaded on him and told him I lost my dad’s home,” she said.
The clerk was so moved that he decided to pay for half of her groceries.
“I wasn’t asking for that at all . . . I was just shocked,” Alexandrea said.
Their brief conversation wasn’t about money at all, she said. It was about the loss she’d been experiencing.
She said she was beyond humbled by the young man’s gesture.