Kenny and Pauline Bruther stand in the kitchen of their new home with their granddaughter Taelyr. One year ago, the Bruther’s home in Hanover burned down. The new home was built atop the ashes of the home that the Bruthers had lived in for nearly four decades.  (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Kenny and Pauline Bruther stand in the kitchen of their new home with their granddaughter Taelyr. One year ago, the Bruther’s home in Hanover burned down. The new home was built atop the ashes of the home that the Bruthers had lived in for nearly four decades. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Kenny and Pauline Bruther are happy to be back in the Hanover neighborhood they had lived in for more than 40 years. It's the place they raised their four children, created countless memories and made lifelong friends.

It almost feels like home again.

The missing pieces are the familiar rooms, furniture and comfort of their old house, which was destroyed in a fire last year one day after Thanksgiving.

"I have to say, I still miss it," said Pauline.

Since the fire, the Bruthers have rebuilt in the same place at 530 Hickory Drive and are working toward settling in. They moved in about a month ago and are still feeling out the new layout and features.

"Sometimes (Pauline) will have me get something, and I'll say, 'Is that AF or BF, after fire or before fire," Kenny joked.

"Somebody stopped me the other day and said it may be three years before it feels like home," Pauline said.

A year ago, Kenny, Pauline and their granddaughter Taelyr Bruther were decorating the Christmas tree and preparing a turkey for a belated Thanksgiving celebration.

Last Saturday - exactly one year after the fire - the family sat around the dining room table in the new home, counted their blessings and finally enjoyed a turkey together.

The old home was built in 1969 and purchased by the Bruthers in 1972.

The fire department pointed to faulty wiring as the cause of the fire. The blaze, which rekindled the next morning, began in the attic and had grown before it was detected by the family.

"I smelled something and heard crackling," Taelyr recalled.

Kenny, a former volunteer firefighter, attempted to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher but the blaze had too much time to build.

"It had been there for a while. Once we saw it, I mean, it was maybe five minutes and the house was full of smoke," he said.

The family had trouble getting out of the house. Pauline said she had to place a wet rag over her face when she went back to retrieve her purse. No one was seriously injured, but Kenny and Taelyr received oxygen.

It took about two months before the family decided to rebuild.

"We were kind of in a daze," Pauline said, noting that until now she never truly understood the struggle family's endure after losing their home.

"Until you are in it yourself, you really don't realize how helpless you are. We were just devastated tying to figure out what to do," she said.

Few of the family's belongings were spared in the fire, and they spent 10 months planning and constructing their new house while living in a rental on Amber Waves.

They admit that it was extremely tough at times.

"We kept telling each that it's gonna be worth it," Kenny said.

Kenny designed and built some of the new house with the help of old classmates, family and friends who work in construction.

"I had a lot of good people around me, from my brother, my sisters and my daughters and my grandkids and my wife," Kenny said.

Shortly after the fire, a group of construction workers - whom Kenny had worked with in the past - came to the house to help tear it down. They wouldn't take a dime for their services.

The same theme continued for the coming months. When the family went to church, fellow churchgoers were eager to extend a hand.

"Every time you'd go to church, somebody would be handing you a check or shaking your hand and leaving money in it or dropping a card off in the mail. It's kind of a humbling experience, because I don't like charity," Kenny said.

Kenny admitted he was a little uncomfortable accepting the gifts and even asked his brother for advice.

"He told me to just accept it. He said, 'They want to do it, and you'd do the same for them,'" Kenny said.

The support helped the family move into their home one month ago, around the same time Pauline was celebrating a birthday. In fact, the day - Oct. 26 - is certainly a day to remember and mark on their calendars in their new home.

That day, unbeknownst to the Bruthers, neighbors, church friends and family members filled the house as part of a surprise birthday/house-warming party. Not surprisingly, the special day featured much of the same cast who helped make the new home a reality.

"I don't know what we would have done this without our friends and family. Oh my goodness, there is no way we could ever repay everyone for all that they did," Pauline said.