Jackson County

Retired Ocean Springs teacher gets what she deserves

It was what she deserved.

That’s why it was so easy for Mike and Janet Fletcher to pour their money, effort and five months of their time into renovating Sandra Camphor’s home after it was heavily damaged in an April storm.

On Saturday, the Fletchers revealed the finished project to Camphor — an almost entirely renovated and newly furnished house.

“I’m just speechless,” she said as she walked through the hallway while touring her new house. “I love my house. It’s absolutely gorgeous.”

A tree had fallen through her roof and into her living room, nearly killing Camphor and allowing rain water in to damage other parts of the house.

It occurred during the early hours of April 28. The retired theater director from Ocean Springs High School had fallen asleep in her living room recliner. She was awakened by her house alarm.

At first she thought the alarm had been triggered by vibrations from a loud clap of thunder, but she then noticed water leaking from the ceiling. She got up and moved her recliner away from the leaking water.

“Then all of a sudden I hear, ‘Boom. Swoosh,’ ” she said.

The ceiling came crashing down all around her. She closed her eyes and braced for what she believed would be the end of her life.

“It was a very frightening experience,” she said. “The first thought when all that happened was, ‘Oh my God. I’m going to die.’ ”

But once the noise subsided, she opened her eyes. The falling debris had missed her by just inches, and she was overjoyed.

Death did not come for Camphor that day. Rather, it was the start of one of life’s unusual trials — not just for Camphor but for many others as well.

When the reality of the situation sank in, her immediate future seemed bleak. Without a home, her choices were to try to find a shelter or live in a tent in her front yard, she said.

One thing she didn’t count on was the outpouring of support from her friends, former colleagues, former students and even strangers.

“It’s really, really heartwarming to know that all these people felt a connection to me enough to help me,” she said.

Her best friends, the Fletchers, came to her immediate rescue and took Camphor into their home.

On the day of the storm, Mike Fletcher went to Camphor’s house to assess the damage.

“When I walked in here when the damage was done and I started looking around, I started building this place right away,” he said. “I went to work in my mind.”

Then Mike Fletcher set to work. He rebuilt the house with the help of his wife and others who donated money and time.

Aside from a few pieces of furniture considered family heirlooms, everything in the house is new. The Fletchers renovated just about every inch and even added a laundry room with a new washer-dryer. Camphor had been going to a laundromat.

“The sense of accomplishment comes from seeing her reaction today,” Mike Fletcher said.

Helping was an easy decision for the Fletchers because they saw how Camphor dedicated her entire life to others, he said.

“She deserves it,” Mike Fletcher said. “We’ll enjoy it as much knowing that she has this as she’s going to enjoy being in it.”

Camphor hopes her situation will set an example for others.

“If you live your life trying to help people, (even if) you don’t always succeed cause you don’t always succeed in anything, you get rewarded, you get a blessing,” she said. “It somehow comes back to you.

“When things are dark, when you’re going through the tunnel and you see a light, it doesn’t always have to be a train.”

Wesley Muller: 228-896-2322, @WesleySMuller