Valdosta Daily Times

November 6, 2012

Volunteers rebuild veteran’s house after his death

Mester’s family received welcome break from expenses

Jason Schaefer
The Valdosta Daily Times

JENNINGS, Fla. — South Georgia veteran Jack Mester may have passed away more than two months ago, but with the help of Sons of the American Legion and Valdosta Veterans First, his final wish is still in the process of being carried out.

Mester’s wife has lupus and diabetes, his daughter has epilepsy and his mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s disease when she was alive. Medical expenses were already high when he was diagnosed with cancer six years ago, and their house in the country just north of the Florida line fell into disrepair.

The floors were bad, the roof was leaky, and because of limbs falling into the house more than once, insurance companies wouldn’t insure the mobile home. But volunteers from American Legion Post 13 have given the house a complete makeover—new hardwood floors to replace old carpeting, a new roof, new flowerbeds and a new sturdy wooden ramp to the front porch.

While all the repairs are necessary, the ramp and dark-colored flooring are the favorites of Dawn Mester, his wife. The work completed Saturday was “beyond imagination” for her, and she wasn’t expecting the ramp.

“They said, ‘We’re not just thinking about Jack’,” Mester said. “ ‘We’re thinking about you in the future.’ Eventually, I will need it.”

Most of the materials were donated by the Home Depot Distribution Center, including the flooring and a gift card for $1,600. Volunteers have paid about $750 out of pocket, according to Joe Wetherington of Valdosta Veterans First.

After caring for her husband at home during his decline in health over the last few weeks of his life, the repairs are a welcome relief to the Mester family. While Jack Mester “had his mind about him,” in the words of his wife, he did require assistance to get through his daily routine.

As he was dying from the 30 tumors in his liver, after doctors had removed his esophagus and part of his stomach, his greatest worry was that he would be a burden to his family. Luckily, Valdosta Veterans First contacted him in time to offer some reassurance.

“This project put a lot of peace in his mind,” Mester said. “We’d never heard of Veterans First. For those people to be in our lives, God must have sent them this way.”

The volunteers talked to Jack Mester more than two weeks before his death to announce that they wanted to help with the house repairs.

Mester served in the Air Force as a staff sergeant for 20 years. After retiring, he found work at Ivan Allen Workspace, before it was bought out by Staples, Dawn Mester said.

“Jack never met a stranger,” Mester said. “He was from New Jersey. The people he met said they got many laughs off of Jack. He would call the ditch the gully, and different things like that. And teaching him how to be outside. He was a city boy.”

Jack Mester was very proud of his “worm bed” business out of his back yard, raising and selling earthworms as fishing bait, Dawn said.

“If you met him, you felt like you’d known him all his life,” Mester said. “He didn’t lose that New Jersey.”

Mester’s family was excited to see the volunteers at work Saturday, but work is far from finished. There is still roofing to be installed, flooring to be laid, and volunteers are still searching for a central air conditioning unit to replace the old one.

“To see the people that were here Saturday—I mean young people!—you can’t do anything but walk away with a blessing,” Mester said.