Story by Sara Paul
For their 50th wedding anniversary, John and Mary Sibirtzeff received a surprise furry gift from their children – a puppy named Logan. The family knew that Logan, a Dachshund Dapple, would be a perfect addition to their clan, but what they did not know was that on Fri., Jan. 26, Logan would save their lives.
When Logan’s barking alerted them that their Pine Island home was on fire, John, Mary and their son, Paul, were able to evacuate and survive the blaze that took all of their belongings and tragically, Logan as well.
In response to the tragedy, the Warwick Knights of Columbus (KOC), joining together with the Warwick Rotary Club and the Warwick Lion’s Club, organized a Pancake Breakfast on Sun., Feb. 11 to raise money for the Sibirtzeff family. The event, held at St. Stephen–St. Edward’s School, saw more than 200 attendees consume about 800 flapjacks, raising $4,650 for the Sibirtzeff family. The KOC, who spearheaded the efforts, cut them a check for an even $5,000.
The Sibirtzeff couple currently reside with their daughter Lisa Sibirtzeff and her husband in their Huguenot home, just outside of Port Jervis. It was Lisa who reached out to the KOC and her call for help was answered by Grand Knight Lloyd VanDuzer.
“This is the kind of thing the community rallies around. They feel good to help, and this family is really in need,” said VanDuzer, a native of Warwick. “I like to actually do, rather than just write a check.”
With tears streaming, Mary embraced VanDuzer in a moment he describes as “incredible.”
“It feels really good to know we are helping. We don’t do it for the recognition, but when you see a smile and a tear, it’s nice to know we have really made an impact,” said VanDuzer, a 10 year veteran of the KOC, noting that this is the first time the KOC, Rotary, and Lion’s Club have sponsored an event together.
Lisa, a local ELK member, said she and her family were “overwhelmed” by the support from the community.
“I reached out to the Knights of Columbus and thought maybe we’d get a small gift certificate. I was not expecting all this,” exclaimed Lisa, as she glanced around the packed St. Stephen’s gymnasium. “I am so impressed by what they have done for my family.”
“We want to make sure my parents are safe. They need to be with family so they can mentally and emotionally feel better,” said Lisa, who works full time, and now cares for her parents and her own canine clan of three, preparing Sunday dinners and taking her folks out so they can “just get back into living.”
ShopRite of Warwick donated funds towards the groceries for the event and the Ladies Auxiliary of Pine Island also brought sandwiches to the family the morning of the fire, Lisa acknowledged.
VanDuzer also reported that several attendees traveled to the breakfast on a rainy Sunday morning to humbly drop off a donation. Representatives of the Bruderhof Community, for example, stopped by to present a $250 check to the family and wish them well. Members of the Pine Island Fire Department also took time to attend the fundraiser.
“We love people and we love that they are here for us. God has blessed us, and we are grateful,” whispered a tearful John, who had lived in his cottage his entire life, falling in love with his wife at a Thanksgiving dinner in the home’s dining room 54 years ago, and raising his six children there.
The Sibirtzeff family property was purchased in 1938 and John’s father began construction on John’s birthday on Nov. 16 that year.
Without homeowner’s insurance, the family was left with nothing except the foundation, a foundation that will now serve as a memorial to their beloved Logan, just a four year old pup when he was lost in the fire.
“We want to make a monument for the puppy who saved our lives. We love all puppies, and we love all people,” said John, adding that he does not plan to rebuild a dwelling on his property.
The memorial will also include a plaque for the firefighters who responded on that frigid Friday morning. The fire called upon approximately 75 firefighters, six companies and 13,000 gallons of water, according to the family.
“The firefighters did a wonderful job, especially with the elements and the freezing weather. God bless them. They were just amazing,” said Mary.
The Grand Knight summed up the morning efforts quite succinctly saying, “We do it for the cause, not the applause.”
To make a donation to the Sibirtzeff family, send an email to Lloyd VanDuzer at email@example.com.
The next KOC event will be the first Lenten Fish Fry on Fri., Feb. 16 at 5 p.m. at St. Stephen’s, located at 75 Sanfordville Rd. in Warwick. Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for children five to 12 years old, and children under five eat for free. For more information send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.kofc4952.org.