Warren D. Petersen shuddered with grief as he stood staring at the charred remains of his home. Here, he and his wife, Marie, had established their lives together and raised a family of six children.
But minutes after the wildfires of the summer of 2002 swept across the Arizona desert — burning communities and mountainous landscapes in its path — his home of 53 years was suddenly reduced to smoldering rubble.
Examining the ruins of his home after the fire burned his Overgaard community, he noted how the fire had destroyed his home 11 years to the day of his wife's death.
Members of his Heber 1st Ward, Taylor Arizona Stake, suffered with his loss and offered support as much as possible, but they, too, were consumed with their challenges in the aftermath of the fire.
He felt a desire to return to Snowflake, Ariz., 30 miles away where his wife had been raised. Over the years, they had often considered returning to live there. He soon found a home in an area he liked and moved in. At age 75, with his life deeply etched with routines and habits, he was starting life over.
Neighbors and members in the Snowflake 4th Ward, Snowflake Arizona Stake, began visiting him, usually bringing homegrown vegetables or home-baked goodies. Gradually, this new area became familiar. In short time, it seemed like home. Change, as difficult as it was, stirred new feelings and enlivened his life in new ways.
Old friends were not forgotten, nor did they forget him. Many former ward members drove the 30 miles to visit. His former home teacher cared for him during eye surgery. At Christmastime, Brother Petersen shed tears as former ward members huddled around the door singing carols.
Brother Petersen says his life was twice blessed, first with change, then with sincere friends — old and new — who cushioned the trauma of change. "He's happier than he has been in years, and truly looks and acts much younger," said his son, Wilford (Pete). "He has chosen to remarry, and now acts much like my two sons who are also engaged.
"While it may seem a small thing, the thoughtful care of those members who didn't forget an older brother despite their own demands provided great healing."