Fight to save funeral home from flood ends
By Sue Tiffin
Published May 11, 2017
When camera crews and news programs come to Minden to report on flooding that has sent the town into a state of emergency, they seek out Kirsten Monk.
The visual of Monk’s home and neighbouring funeral home business on Bobcaygeon Road, just next to Gull River and the main street bridge, are surrounded in deep water, an iconic image of a town under water. If the sight of the submerged property loaded down with a wall of sandbags isn’t enough to represent residents in distress, the steady sound of sump pumps working around the clock reflects the desperation to keep afloat.
Monk is exhausted, battling tears, anger, frustration and sadness after a week of hard physical effort and emotional strain trying to hold back the flood that insisted on pouring into the home and business she shares with husband Barry Cray.
“We lost! Business is gone,” she said on social media during the eveniang of May 9.
Despite 10,000 sandbags and about 20 sump pumps and trash pumps in place on the property, Monk said a pump quit that night and she and Cray had to give up the funeral home.
“We’ve been trying for seven days now to save this place, 24 hours a day,” said Monk through tears. “Last night a pump quit, and we had to make a choice. Our children have been working around the clock, fighting so hard. We’ve done everything we can possibly do to save this place. The water was too much. We couldn’t do it anymore.”
The situation is a repeated nightmare for Monk, who is only sleeping an average of two hours a night.
During the 2013 flood, the funeral home sustained $600,000 in damages, causing Monk and Cray to remortgage, seek loans and rebuild. An adjustor told Monk on Wednesday that the funeral home, gutted and rebuilt after 2013’s damage, has withstood $200,000 in damage so far during this flood. The damage to the neighbouring house is estimated at $50,000 so far.
“Barry said to me, ‘we were just finally getting on our feet again,’” said Monk.
This time, Monk was able to secure insurance for the house and the funeral home, but will still need to pay a deductible. Because she has insurance, she won’t need to seek provincial relief assistance that she accessed last time after her insurance proved unreliable.
“This morning we were devastated, and someone from Hydro One showed up and said, ‘we’re not giving up on the house,’” said Monk.
A team from Hydro One relocated a sump pump, and created what Monk called a moat that has reduced the flooding water level about a foot and a half.
“We were about ready to evacuate,” said Monk. “I will never complain about Hydro again in my life, I will happily pay my bill. Those people are heroes.”
Her family has been debating whether or not to leave the house, like they did in 2013 and also last year during another potential flood scare. They evacuated the funeral home on May 6, and have been living upstairs in the house with no stove and minimal furniture since May 7. The living space includes a temporary office to continue serving clients, through the support of space at local churches and the Lion’s Club hall. If Monk and Cray closed down, the Ontario Board of Funeral Services could revoke their operating licence.
Monk praised the community for coming out in full force to support her family in trying to save their home and business. She said residents have arrived with food for the family and truckloads of sandbags, trying in vain to prevent damage to the buildings.
“We’re handling everything and doing the best we can,” said Monk. “We promised people we would be there for them, and we will be. We just can’t get ahead.”
Monk said residents have also been protecting her family from curious onlookers, who have been documenting the flood’s progress through the course of the event, sometimes causing damaging wakes by driving through the water-filled roads.
“While we’re in pain, their reaction is that they need to send pictures to their families, of the businesses and homes being destroyed” said Monk. “Coming and taking pictures of our agony - that appalls me.”
Monk and Cray have owned the business since 1998, when they bought it from her parents, who bought it in 1975.
“I’m tired,” she said. “I would love to run, but I can’t. How can I do that to all the people who showed up to save me? Somebody told me we should walk away from it all, but I can’t do that because they haven’t walked away from me.”
Moving forward, Monk said she and Cray will continue to be proactive.
“We are able to come back, we are going to be here, we just have to figure out how to protect ourselves again,” she said, noting that she wouldn’t be surprised if flooding along the Gull River continues to be a recurring event. “They (the TSW) just don’t seem to have it under control anymore.”
For now, Monk, Cray and their family are appreciative of the help they are receiving from a community they said has come back from a flood before, and will flourish again.
A GoFundMe page for donations has been created by FrontRunner Professional, the company that designs the funeral home's web page. It's available here: https://www.gofundme.com/gordonamonk