ST. REGIS - Monday night's winds didn't just knock over trees onto a man's business in Mineral County -- they fell while he was inside -- injuring him. But this isn't a story of destruction, it’s about a community that is stepping up to help.
“It’s very emotional. I guess I don’t cry easy, but I've had tears many, many times in the last few days,” said St. Regis resident Milton Pearce. "I've always had greenhouses no matter where I lived. And I thoroughly enjoy gardening."
The 68-year-old Pearce is well known in St. Regis where he is a part-time preacher, on-call hospital worker, and business owner.
“He’s just a true brother,” said Greg Casto with the Northwest Indian School. But now -- in a time of need – Pearce has plenty of support.
Pearce was visiting with a customer and preparing to cover the plants on Monday right before the winds hit.
“I doubt if he got two miles down the road until this gust hit us, and I’m so thankful that he wasn’t in there with me,” Pearce told MTN News. “Rafters around the conduit came down and took me in the back, and drove me to the ground, I almost passed out, but I didn’t.”
He was in there alone and couldn't call for help.
"I couldn’t call my wife in the house because my cell phone was in the house to be charged, but I did have my pocketknife and I cut the plastic in the doorway and I was able to crawl out,” Pearce explained. “And made my way to the house and called 911. It was just a short time til people from the ambulance group and St. Regis fire company was here and attending to me.”
Pearce says a CAT scan showed he had at least three broken vertebrae in his back. He added he asked to be taken to the hospital in Plains where he worked for 16 years before retiring to the greenhouse. “Health care and mission work has been my entire life.”
Now it’s those same communities that are giving back to him in his time of need. “He cares about everybody, more than himself. Puts people before himself. That’s why we’re here,” Casto explained.
While Pearce was in the hospital, neighbors quickly gathered to clean up, and the work has continued throughout the week with friends from a nearby school coming by on Wednesday.
“We got a group of kids together who got their school work done and wanted to be able to come help, so it was a blessing to be able to do that,” Casto said.
For Pearce it’s his faith, “faith will always help someone get through it.” And his philosophy, “if you retire and you retire to the recliner, you're not going to last long. Activity keeps you alive and healthy.”
All of the assistance is getting him through the storm,” it’s just been outstanding, and it’s been very humbling, but i so appreciate their kindness and their friendship.”