EXETER — Frances Pimentel still looks for reasons to smile.
The 89-year-old doesn’t hesitate to wish others a happy holiday even though her Christmas won’t be as bright this year.
Last week, a fire damaged a mobile home she purchased in Exeter a few years ago to help out family members who needed a place to live.
The fire came two months after her husband of 69 years, Frank Pimentel, passed away at the age of 93. He was a decorated Air Force lieutenant colonel whose military career spanned 32 years. He served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
“He was a great guy,” she said as she leaned on her cane and looked over the fire damage inside her mobile home at 10 Icy Hill Road.
Pimentel is thankful no one was hurt in the blaze, which broke out around 1 a.m. Dec. 10.
While she lives in Hampton Falls, Pimentel owns the mobile home where other family members were living. Her granddaughter, Cathy Pimentel, lived there for the past two years as a single mother with her three children, Kianna Pimentel, 15, Russell Flipp, 12, and Christopher Flipp, 7.
Frances Pimentel’s son, Jonathan Pimentel, and his roommate also lived at the home.
Cathy Pimentel said the cause of the fire is believed to be an electrical problem caused by a pellet stove. They awoke to the fire, but managed to escape unharmed.
The home sustained fire damage in the living room and water and smoke damage throughout.
Frances Pimentel had just spent $12,000 renovating the home, which was not yet insured. She was waiting until the renovations were finished, her granddaughter said.
“You never think something like this is going to happen,” said Cathy, whose family is now living with her grandmother in Hampton Falls until they can fix the damage or find another place to live.
“We’re anxious to be in our own place and give everybody peace of mind, but I’m grateful I have a place to stay,” said Cathy, who also helps her grandmother with transportation and other care.
Dennis Cushing of Reliable Restoration and Recovery in Epping offered to clean the clothing and bedding that could salvaged and is also pitching in to help the family with repair work.
“There’s so much stuff I have to throw away, but it’s not a total loss,” Cathy said.
The fire came two weeks before Christmas. Cathy said the only present she had purchased for the kids that was lost in the fire was an Xbox 360.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m just trying to piece everything back together,” she said.
Exeter resident Cheryl Gilman-White has also stepped in to help the family. She started a fund to accept donations after learning about the fire.
“I feel so bad, and I just want to do everything I can do to help,” said Gilman-White, an insurance agent with Brownell Insurance in Hampton.
Monetary donations may be made to the Pimentel Family Fund at any TD Bank.
Gift, toy and clothing donations may be brought to Brownell Insurance, 860 Lafayette Road. No. 2, in Hampton. To schedule a pickup, call Gilman-White at 770-8431 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.