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Woman Proves She’s Stronger Than Tragedy

Wed., Feb. 18, 1998

Fire destroyed Charlotte Haubensack’s home last month, but it didn’t touch her spirit. She’d been through worse.

“As long as my family was safe, I didn’t care,” she says. “The rest was just furniture and clothes.”

Standing in the cold morning air as flames blackened the blue-painted boards, Charlotte slipped back to childhood. She was 13 in 1963 when fire leveled her family’s home in Athol.

She lost all of her possessions then, and lost everything this time except her husband and three sons.

She accepts loss with the strength of a veteran.

“I don’t feel sorry for myself,” she says. “You learn to go on with life.”

Charlotte had lived in the century-old house along Rathdrum Creek for seven years when her first adult tragedy hit. That was 12 years ago.

Her 2-year-old son fell in the swollen creek and was swept away. Rescuers pulled him out, but his brain was permanently damaged. Charlotte speaks about the accident in the sparest details.

“We had to teach him to walk again and to talk,” she says. “But we did it. Our family pulls together.”

In 1987, her 8-year-old daughter was killed in Coeur d’Alene after a dog chased her into the path of a car. Six months later, three of Charlotte’s young nephews and nieces in Oregon died after a storm-loosened tree branch crashed onto the car they were in.

At 47, Charlotte’s eyes are a bit tired, but she shows no other evidence of her wounds. Strong faith, good friends and a close family help, she says.

“I have times when I cry and I miss my daughter very much,” she says. “I know how to endure.”

After the recent fire, she did not ask for help. The Rathdrum Lions Club and Ramsey and Post Falls Jehovah’s Witness congregations gave the Haubensacks money to stay in a motel.

Jim and Judy Landers invited Charlotte’s family to stay in their partially remodeled garage while the Haubensacks waited for their new manufactured home to arrive.

“They really had to rough it,” Judy Landers says. “There was no running water, no plumbing, just a wood stove.”

Charlotte didn’t consider the conditions a challenge.

“I’ve camped out before,” she says, shrugging.

She moved into her new home last week, too excited to notice the emptiness. People have donated beds, a dining table, dishes and linens. Charlotte is grateful and ready, once again, to get on with life.

“I know me and my family will be provided for,” she says. “We stick together and that’s how we get by.”

If you’d like to help the Haubensacks, take donations to Rathdrum Fire Station No. 1 or call 687-1815.

Tree happy

Coeur d’Alene’s JoAnn Schaller looked past Arbor Day’s obscurity years ago to see its lesson potential.

She had young children and so did her friends. Arbor Day was a chance to teach about the environment.

JoAnn and her friends pooled their money and bought an ornamental flowering cherry tree to plant in Phippeny Park. They even invited a county commissioner, who seemed disappointed at the small crowd of women and children.

The group gathered around a hole and dropped in the ball of roots. That was it, until the commissioner remembered to utter a few words about stewardship.

The celebration was hardly momentous, but JoAnn remembers it every time she passes the tree. She remembers the friends who were there and have since moved or died. And she thinks about the bond between mothers with small children.

“Our tree stands proudly in Phippeny Park, and I always regard it with wonder as I drive by,” she says.

What mark have you made on your community? Point it out to Cynthia Taggart, “Close to Home,” 608 Northwest Blvd., Suite 200, Coeur d’Alene, ID, 83814; fax to 765-7149; call 765-7128; or e-mail to

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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