Schenectady County

Contractor helps restore veteran’s flooded Rotterdam Junction home

Timothy McCabe, the owner of a local drywall contracting business, didn’t think twice about helping

Timothy McCabe has a special place in his heart for veterans.

His great-grandfather was in the cavalry during the Civil War and his great-granduncle died in the Confederacy’s notorious Andersonville Prison. His grandfather helped track down Mexican bandit Pancho Villa before serving in World War I, and his father fought in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest during World War II.

That’s why McCabe, the owner of a local drywall contracting business, didn’t think twice about helping Roger Williams in his time of need. The 77-year-old Korean War veteran has been struggling to recover ever since 4 feet of floodwater inundated his small ranch-style home in Rotterdam Junction late last summer.

With Veterans Day approaching,

How to help

Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County is organizing volunteers for work at the St. Margaret of Cortona Roman Catholic Church rectory at 9 a.m. Saturday. For information, call Anne Rockwood at 881-5001.

McCabe decided it was time to give something back to someone who had served the country. This week, he began finishing the interior of Williams’ home in the hope of returning the former U.S. Marine to a sense of normalcy.

“It was something that seemed to resonate with me,” he said.

By Wednesday afternoon, McCabe’s crews had already covered the bare studs of Williams’ gutted home and started taping the drywall. They hoped to have the walls sanded down and ready for a fresh coat of paint by the time Veterans Day rolled around today.

Williams didn’t get a chance to look at the first day of work. By the time he arrived Wednesday, he could hardly believe the progress.

“It’s unbelievable, isn’t it?” he said, pointing to one of the new walls in his living room. “I almost fell over when I saw it.”

Williams, who is disabled, has stayed with his son in Rotterdam since the flood. He contemplated abandoning the home in favor of a senior living facility until Scotia contractor Gary Riggi introduced himself.

Riggi had been organizing a volunteer effort with his church and was able to get a team together to help gut Williams’ home. Several days later, he arranged for an electrician to rewire the home and restore its power, giving Williams hope that he could one day return to the place that stands as one of the last physical reminders of his wife.

In December, Frances Williams died in her sleep in the living room of the home. Williams found her several hours later.

“I walked over there to wake her up, and she was cool to the touch,” he recalled.

The flood destroyed nearly all of the possessions Williams had saved. Only a few framed pictures that were hanging on his wall survived.

“Everything fell apart,” he said. “We couldn’t salvage anything.”

The home today is a different story. A new furnace was installed this week, finally bringing heat back, and McCabe’s work is quickly restoring the interior aesthetics.

“They say I’m going to be in before Thanksgiving,” he said. “Seeing this, I’m beginning to believe it.”

Anne Rockwood, a construction manager with Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County, said the recovery effort in Rotterdam Junction could use more skilled volunteers like McCabe. She said about a half-dozen volunteers are helping during weekdays and about a dozen on weekends, but there’s still a monumental amount of work to be done.

Among the roughly 100 homes damaged by flooding, about half have been restored. Some are still without heat, and many others are damaged beyond the means the owners have to restore them.

“No one here has enough money to do the amount of work they need done in their houses,” she said.

Some also forget how bad the damage is in Rotterdam Junction, since most of it is cloaked inside the homes. Rockwood said this lack of visibility typically means fewer volunteers, which makes repairing the homes more difficult before the winter weather touches down.

“We still need more help, and skilled help in particular,” she said.

McCabe was turned on to helping Williams after he was contacted by Rotterdam Code Enforcement Officer Pat Carroll. He wanted to help in the hamlet’s recovery effort, but in a way more intimate than a monetary donation.

“Money just falls into a black hole and is impersonal,” he said, “but this is personal.”

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