Jerry “Pops” Ingraham, 78, has had a harder life since his wife died.
Ingraham, a veteran of the Vietnam War, is a retired Pensacola contractor who became a one-time taxi driver and whose finances became tight after his 59-year-old wife Sharon suffered a debilitating stroke three years ago.
The couple poured their savings into their medical expenses, and Ingraham spent most of their time caring for Sharon until she passed away last August. At the time of her death, Ingraham was living month to month on social security checks.
Even before Sharon’s death, the couple’s roof had started to leak. With no money to fix the problem, Ingraham put two trash cans and a plastic jug for sweet tea on his table to catch any water that dripped into his kitchen every time it rained. But that wasn’t a permanent solution, and black mold eventually grew on the veteran’s living room carpet.
At least one of those problems was that scheduled Friday when Mike Guy, owner of Guy Brothers Roofing, sent a crew of workers to rebuild Ingrahams roof for free.
“I’m absolutely thrilled that you are doing this for me,” said Ingraham. “I was just beside myself. I was sick with advanced COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and heart failure. I have a weak heart and I’ve been caring for my wife for a few years.
Ingraham said he couldn’t be “more grateful” to Guy and his company, which usually does one or two pro bono jobs a year in Pensacola.
“I probably got more blessings from it than he did,” Guy told the news journal. “You know that warm, fuzzy feeling you get? You don’t get it that often at 66 years old. It’s been an honor to be able to do it for him.”
He added that at least two of his uncles fought in Vietnam and “If I had to help anyone, a veteran would be my first choice.”
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Beginning early Friday morning, a crew of about half a dozen Guy Brothers Roofing workers began demolishing the old roof of Ingrahams Pensacola house on Trenton Drive.
All of the rotten wood upstairs in the single story house was restored and a brand new roof was built before the end of the work day.
A job this size would typically have cost a homeowner about $ 10,000.
“We’ve been in business for 50 years,” said Guy. “We have been blessed with it, and if you have been blessed yourself, you should bless other people. As a person, I just feel like you should.”
The water seeping through the broken roof in recent months damaged the interior of Ingrahams house, but there was one property the rain was never allowed to touch.
A photo of Sharon, aged 17, taken just months before meeting her future husband for the first time, sits prominently on a shelf in the center of Ingrahams living room.
Ingraham was sitting on a deck chair on Friday when the worker pounded on his roof, screamed and rattled, looking at the black and white portrait framed in hardwood.
“She was a beautiful woman,” he said.
Ingraham grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, but in the summer of 1950 his family vacationed in Pensacola and Ingraham “got a taste for the feel of sand between my toes”. He joined the Navy as a young man, and when his military superiors asked where he was going, Pensacola was high on his list.
He hadn’t been in Pensacola long when the then 18-year-old got a date with a girl named Sharon in 1960 and agreed to meet her at Dreamland Skate Park.
It turns out that Sharon never showed up.
“But when ‘that Sharon’ walked in the door,” said Ingraham, nodding in the direction of the black and white portrait. “She got out on the skate floor and I rolled over behind her and said, ‘Hey, Sharon, come on.’ “”
They started skating together.
“When she told me that she didn’t think she was the Sharon I was looking for, I said to her, ‘No, but you’ll do fine,'” he said with a laugh, cherishing the memory.
The couple married not long after meeting. Ingraham said he doesn’t regret his decision to spend all of the money making her as comfortable as possible after her stroke.
“We have been friends and acquaintances ever since,” he said. “She was my best friend. We have two children.”
After Sharon died on August 2, 2020, Ingrahams daughter-in-law, Glinda Ingraham, began looking for economical ways to repair his roof. She called groups she believed could make a donation, but after Hurricane Sally in September 2020, local nonprofits were inundated with appeals for help.
Fortunately, she met David Peaden, the executive director of the Home Builders Association in West Florida.
“I called three roofers on their behalf and they all turned me down until Mike Guy said Buy Brothers Roofing would help them and fix the roof for free,” Peaden said.
Ingraham said the help he received really changed his life.
“It’s great,” he said.
Colin Warren-Hicks can be reached at [email protected] or 850-435-8680.