Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

TOP STORY >> Former Air Force officer escapes Rita

By RICKY HARVEY
Leader managing editor

A few weeks ago, John Felsher was busy helping victims of Hurricane Katrina find food and shelter.
Felsher and his family are now evacuees themselves.
A former Air Force public affairs captain stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base from 1990-1993, Felsher is back in the area after seeking refuge from Hurricane Rita, a storm which battered Felsher’s Lake Charles, La., neighborhood on Saturday.

“I never dreamed we would be evacuees, needing the same things that people who were in the path of Hurricane Katrina needed,” said Felsher, who is the outdoors editor at the Lake Charles American Press newspaper. “We were giving (Hurricane Katrina victims) food and helping them. Now, we’re asking for the same help.”

Felsher said he and his family first decided to ride out the storm when the target area appeared to be west of Lake Charles. When the storm shifted, they changed their mind and eventually opted to make the drive to Arkansas.

“We fit everything we could in our truck and left,” Felsher said.
He has no idea about the extent of the damage to his house in Louisiana.
Felsher, his wife, Dawn, sons Daniel, 15, Steven, 13, and two dogs — a golden retriever and labrador retriever — made their way to Jacksonville on Friday after getting in touch with McArthur Assembly of God Pastor Larry Burton.

“I remembered Pastor Burton from when we used to live here, so I called and he said there was a family in the church who would provide a home for anyone who came up from Louisiana,” Felsher said. “So, he got in touch with Mark and Tiffany Henry, who live in the Ward area, and we decided to come up and meet with them.”

Felsher and his family have been staying with the Henrys since Friday evening.
“They’ve been extremely generous to us and have opened their doors to us,” Felsher said. “It’s a little cramped, but we have a roof over our head and food on the table. They’ve been very, very good to us.”
Felsher and his family were in the path of Hurricane Rita after moving to Louisiana almost 10 years ago, when his 12-year Air Force career came to an end.

“I was a captain and was in Seoul, Korea, in 1996, when I got a letter saying I’d be a civilian in 60 days,” Felsher said. “I got caught in the drawdown of the Clinton administration.”
Someone who spent most of his teenage years as an outdoors writer in Slidell, La., Felsher returned to the newspaper scene after leaving the military when he was hired in Hammond, La.
Two years later, he got his current job and moved to Lake Charles.

The status of that job, and his duties as host of “John Felsher Outdoors” radio show are uncertain due to the storm.

“We haven’t been able to contact anyone from Lake Charles,” Felsher said. “I don’t know what the extent of the damage is and I don’t know what happened to the newspaper. I doubt they are publishing right now because there aren’t any phones or electricity.”

So what now?

“As far as the long-term goal, I don’t know yet,” Felsher said. “I’m looking for something to do around here to get some immediate cash … doing something as far as writing or public relations goes would be nice.
“We have to go back to Lake Charles to at least see what the damage is and try to rebuild the house, but after that I don’t know. We fell in love with this area when we were here before, so I guess we could relocate here. I just don’t know.”