Nfld. & Labrador

Port aux Basques family recovers precious hockey jerseys lost to Fiona

Peggy and Lloyd Savery lost their house to post-tropical storm Fiona, and everything that was inside it. But slowly, piece by piece, some things are coming back.

Family thanks volunteers still picking through rubble from September storm

Two white hockey jerseys, ripped and dirty from being exposed to the elements.
These jerseys, belonging to David Savery, were pulled from the wreckage in Port aux Basques months after post-tropical storm Fiona ripped through the town. They are treasured keepsakes for his parents, who lost their home in the storm. (Peggy Savery/Facebook)

Peggy and Lloyd Savery lost their house and everything in it when post-tropical storm Fiona tore through southwestern Newfoundland. But slowly, piece by piece, some things are coming back.

In a town torn to shreds, there's a group of dedicated volunteers still picking through debris more than four months after the storm made landfall. And last month, one of them made a discovery that put a little faith in the hearts of the struggling Savery family. 

A local man, Richard Spencer, found a pair of hockey jerseys belonging to Savery's adult son — treasured keepsakes kept inside the Savery home for years. On Tuesday, a third jersey was recovered.

"We were really excited because we thought that was something we'd never see again," Peggy Savery told CBC News

Savery was staying with her son, David, and her new grandchild when someone texted her a picture of the jerseys, found near the shoreline where their house once stood.

"It was really overwhelming and emotional because it's been a really tough go," she said. "I found Christmas probably the hardest to deal with. When I received that, it was almost like a sign for me.… Things are looking up."

A house on the edge of a cliff and the same house beside it destroyed.
The photo on the left, taken at the peak of Fiona, was shared worldwide and published in media outlets around the world. On the right was what remained when the storm died down. (Rene Roy/Wreckhouse Press, Malone Mullin/CBC)

The images of the Savery house are now famous: a blue bungalow with the basement torn out, teetering over the edge of a cliff. It's become a symbol of the wreckage from Fiona.

David Savery played junior hockey in Ontario from a young age. He went on the play university hockey for the Royal Military College in Kingston, which made his parents beam with pride. When the house was wrecked by massive waves and a powerful storm surge, the jerseys from David's hockey journey were among many treasured items swept out to sea.

The jerseys were found in hard shape, torn by moving debris and exposure to the elements, but Peggy Savery doesn't mind. Their home is gone, and they still don't have a permanent place to live. Having lost nearly everything in the storm, she was just happy to have some pieces of pleasant memories to hold onto.

"We lost everything. So everything that I'm surrounding myself with now is all new, and it doesn't feel like mine," she said. "So when I find something, or somebody finds something, that belongs to me, it's a feeling I can't even express. Because it's like a little piece of me that I'm getting back that I thought I'd never see again."

Picking through the rubble

Those feelings Savery describes are what motivates volunteers like Tammy Kettle to keep digging through the debris.

Kettle spends a few hours every week sifting through the wreckage, looking for anything that might belong to the people of Port aux Basques.

It started when her neighbour — Savery's nephew — decided to dive in the cove to see what he could find. Since then, Kettle has been on a mission to recover everything she can.

"It's just who I am," she said. "I just help in any way that I can. Especially when there's such turmoil going on."

Portait of Josh Savery standing beside his parents, Peggy and Lloyd.
Josh Savery, left, with his parents Peggy, centre, and Lloyd Savery went to live with relatives in Port aux Basques after the storm. (Waqas Chughtai/CBC News)

The most common thing she finds are family pictures that escaped from frames and photo albums when houses were struck by massive storm surges and swept toward the sea. Among the most precious items recovered was a box with an inscription on it. Kettle discovered it was the writing of a 73-year-old woman who was swept to sea and killed. She was able to return it to the woman's husband.

Her efforts are appreciated by everyone in town, Peggy Savery said.

"I really appreciate it and I know all the people who have things she's found really appreciate it. I mean, she's going above and beyond. I hate to see her wasting all her time. But I guess in her eyes it's not a waste of time."

It's not a waste of time, Kettle responded.

"I just feel guilty when I see her down there doing all that," said Savery. "But I certainly appreciate every time she sends me a picture and asks me if this is mine, because I still hold out hope that some little thing is going to show up and it will be something that means something again."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from CBC Newfoundland Morning