Donna Beseda has shed a lot of tears since her husband, Doug Snokhous, was killed April 17 fighting the fire at the West Fertilizer Co. plant.
Two days after the massive explosion that also damaged their rent home, Beseda fell and broke her arm in two places. The injury caused more tears of pain and sorrow, leaving her unable to work at her flower shop in West.
But Tuesday brought tears of joy as Waco Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. officially welcomed her as a Waco citizen and she accepted the key to her new home. Located in the 2600 block of North 42nd Street, the house was donated by a group of companies that wanted to help someone affected by the West tragedy.
“I was a stranger and y’all have treated me like family,” Beseda said, surrounded in her new living room by representatives of the groups. “Receiving this home is a real blessing and an opportunity for a new start.”
Beseda said she was reluctant at first to leave West, where she and Snokhous lived during their 13 years of marriage.
“I really didn’t want to live in Waco, but once I saw this house, it changed my whole idea,” she said. “Then I started crying happy tears after that. Doug was happy every day of his life. Nothing really ever got him down in the dumps. I can be happy like that now living in this house.”
The 1,766-square-foot home is valued at $121,000. It sits on an ivy-covered hill on a large lot that features sprawling oak trees, a swimming pool and a bright-yellow playhouse for the couple’s grandchildren to play in.
Beseda will have no mortgage payments on the home, but will be responsible for paying property taxes, insurance and maintenance.
“This home will allow me to do the grandmother thing, like baking cookies and having the kids over for family events,” she said. “I’m very excited and very grateful for everything everyone has done for me.”
Snokhous, 50, died along with his younger brother, Robert, 48, in the explosion. The close-knit brothers were longtime employees of Central Texas Iron Works in Waco.
In July, CTIW officials presented a $45,950 check from the Steel Industry West Relief Fund to the city for a new brush firetruck in honor of the brothers.
Beseda’s new home was acquired through a multi-partner nationwide program that donates foreclosed properties to injured first responders, veterans or their families.
Bank of America foreclosed on the home and donated it in partnership with the National Community Stabilization Trust, an organization that works with banks and nonprofit groups to help renovate foreclosed homes and stabilize neighborhoods.
The home was transferred to the Texas State Affordable Housing Corp., a nonprofit company that works with groups to repair foreclosed homes and to find eligible low-to-moderate income buyers.
TSAHC officials joined forces with NeighborWorks Waco and Brooke Community Development, which made about $35,000 worth of renovations to Beseda’s home.
Roy Nash, executive director of NeighborWorks Waco, said he called West Fire Chief Gene Nors, who attended Tuesday’s house-warming ceremony, and asked him to recommend a worthy candidate for the home. He suggested Beseda.
“We are thrilled that she agreed to come to Waco,” Nash said. “She is a beautiful woman of faith and courage to endure what she has endured. We are pleased to help as she looks for a new opportunity in life.”