One Year Later: Widow reconnected with contractor who found husband’s ashes

One Year Later: Widow reconnected with contractor who found husband’s ashes
Vicky Zelenka is reconnected with the contractor who found her husband's ashes after Hurricane Florence flooded her home. (Source: WECT)

LELAND, N.C. (WECT) - Stoney Creek Plantation was one the hardest hit areas devastated by flooding during Hurricane Florence — dozens of homes in the Leland neighborhood were overwhelmed with water in a matter of hours. Many families are still rebuilding today, while others, like Vicky Zelenka, have left altogether.

“You can only go through one of these things once and you never forget it. You never forget,” Zelenka said.

Last September, as Florence moved closer up the East Coast, Zelenka was already overwhelmed. When the hurricane made landfall, it was one year to the day her husband passed — ending a year of mourning with even more suffering.

Zelenka said her husband, Gus, died while the two were on vacation in Rome. The two took a nap in the hotel, and Gus never woke up. His ashes were all Zelenka had left.

“It took me approximately three to four days to finally get in to see what happened. By the time I got there everything was gone," Zelenka said.

Vicky Zelenka stands in front of debris at her home in Stoney Creek Plantation following Hurricane Florence.
Vicky Zelenka stands in front of debris at her home in Stoney Creek Plantation following Hurricane Florence. (Source: WECT)

Vicky came home to her house in Stoney Creek to what looked like a war zone. Her life and everything she owned was up-ended — toppled furniture, waterlogged memories, and the one thing that meant more than anything — her late husband’s ashes, seemingly gone.

But as luck would have it, a contracted worker found the urn among the piles of debris.

Vicky was elated. However, as the months passed and Vicky moved on and into a new home, she lost the contact information for the man who found the ashes.

“If anybody, anybody knows who this young man was I would appreciate to contact either the station or just so that I could thank him personally for what he did for me because out of everything that I lost that was the most important — that I had finally gotten my husband, I got him back," Zelenka said.

It turns out her mystery hero wasn’t too hard to find. After the storm, Zelenka hired Billy Lynch, who owns Fire Tec Restoration out of Pennsylvania. A quick social media search turned up a contact number. Lynch was thrilled for the opportunity to be reconnected with Zelenka. He too lost her phone number.

During our interview, we surprised Zelenka with a FaceTime call, reuniting her with Lynch.

Vicky Zelenka is reconnected with the contractor who found her husband's ashes after Hurricane Florence flooded her home.
Vicky Zelenka is reconnected with the contractor who found her husband's ashes after Hurricane Florence flooded her home. (Source: WECT)

“I felt so much gratitude that he even stopped what he was doing to say wait a minute where is it. That to me was the ultimate act of kindness,” Zelenka said. “It makes me feel so much better now knowing who it was and being able to thank him and being able to say I appreciate what you’ve done. It’s wonderful, it really is.”

The past year has been anything but easy, but Zelenka said she’s grateful for all the help and outpouring of love she’s received.

“You can’t imagine. You can’t imagine how wonderful it’s been — not the circumstances, but the aftermath of people coming and trying to help.”

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