I want to relate to you a true story which conveys the profound goodness found in most human beings and the bedrock principle of the insurance industry. Only the names have been changed for privacy purposes.
It happened many years ago on a cold windy winter night just a few days before the snow began to fall in our rural community in North Idaho. The Newtons lived in a $2 million dollar home sitting high on a hillside overlooking Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced Ponderay). The driveway to the home was guarded by a huge metal decorative gate which was operated by a voice activated lock controlled from the home. No one could get into the homestead without that lock being activated–perfect for keeping intruders or unwanted guests from entering this paradiscal place. The gate and the gentle curvature of the hillside made it so the compound could not be seen from the county road which ran along the mountainside.
As you entered the home and crossed the heavenly carpeted floor you were greeted with the panoramic view of a three hundred foot drop to the lake and to the mountains framed by the huge bay windows. The flickering flames in the floor-to-ceiling fireplace cast dancing shadows to welcome any who entered the grand room. Lush furnishings, paintings, statuettes, and trophy taxidermied animals completed the ambiance of the scene. You could sense Newtons had not held back on using their wealth to enrich their lives and the lives of those they chose to associate with.
Newtons were having business associates from the motion picture world come spend the holidays with them so they decided an additional three-car garage with guest quarters above would make everyone’s stay more comfortable, and work had commenced on that project. While this was being done, they decided to restain the rest of the home so everything would look new.
Since they were adding such a large amount of exposure, they called me to come review with them and their builder the increasing values. Everyone agreed increasing the home by another $500,000 while construction was being completed would be a reasonable thing to do. This was done with the thought in mind of a comprehensive review to be done at renewal time which would be in May of the ensuing year.
With some last minute business before the holidays to attend to in California, Newtons said goodbye to the workers and left for the airport. Two days later, the terrible news came to them that their home had caught fire and burned to the ground. All that was left recognizable was the commercial refrigerator, freezer, stove and chimney. Everything else had gone up in flames. Nothing was saved. Hiring a private jet, Newtons immediately flew home.
It appears after the fire marshal did his investigation, one of the workers had left a pail of oily rags in the new addition which combusted, catching fire to the rest of the structure. With the wind coming through the open garage and the still wet stain on the exterior of the home, it took just a few minutes to turn the whole place into a burning inferno. It was actually a person from across the lake who saw the flames and called the fire department.
Within 15 minutes of notification, the fire department arrived on the scene only to be met by that voice activated locked gate. The decision was made to use the fire truck to break down the gate so firemen could get access to fire. At that point, all they could do was protect the other structures on the property.
Newtons came home, moved into a structure they had been using for an office, and began reconstruction plans. Mrs. Newton wanted to act as the general contractor for the rebuild, to which the insurance company had no objection. They assigned the claim to an adjuster who was expert on dealing with large claims of this type with the thought in mind that Mrs. Newton would only have to deal with one adjuster since she would have her hands full with all the subs she would have to deal with.
Here is the heartwarming portion of this story. Approximately 20 miles away and in a double wide mobile home worth $36,000 lived a lady named Leola. Leola and her husband made their living by raising and butchering mink. (Who’s to know if Mrs. Newton wasn’t a recipient to those labors.) They processed their own vegetables and fruits, made their own preserves and canned the fish they caught in Lake Killarney.
While reviewing her insurance I related the story of the Newtons losing their home. Upon hearing the story, Leola said with compassion in her voice, “I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose all you have in a fire. Even though I don’t know her, I need to do something for her.” She got up from her table, went into the pantry, and returned with a pint of jam and a pint of canned fish. “Will you take this to her and just tell her someone cares. I wish I could do more but that is the best I can do. She doesn’t need to know who gave this to her.”
I took those two pints of food and went immediately to Mrs. Newton’s’ home. When I
arrived she was standing in the driveway in her expensive clothes and jewelry giving instruction to one of the building contractors. I asked her if I could see her for just a moment which she consented to. We walked over to her new Jeep where I told her about Leola wanting to do something for a sister who she didn’t know. You need to know Mrs. Newton would fit the bill of a modern liberalized woman with all the cosmetic trappings and command persona you could imagine.
When I handed the pint of jam and the pint of canned fish she clutched them to her enhanced breasts and started rocking back and forth like she was cuddling a baby as she whispered, “No one has ever given me such a gift of love. I’ll cherish these forever.” She was still teary eyed when she went back to discussing the rebuild with the contractor.
Mrs. Newton now lives in a $4 million dollar home she is slowly decorating again with beauties of the earth, and Leola is still processing her vegetables and fruit, making her own preserves, and now just dreams of canning fish since her husband has passed on.
I haven’t been back in Newtons’ home, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if on the corner of her fireplace there isn’t a pint of jam and a pint of fish.
The true story of insurance at work–sharing the risk so no one has to shoulder the load alone.