World War II veteran, wife reunited with precious memories after losing home in fire

Family photos restored after fire

FLAT ROCK, Mich. – In April a World War II veteran and his wife lost their home in a devastating fire, but one of the things managed to be saved were two boxes of family photos. The pictures were badly damaged, but Monday the couple was gifted with a surprise.

Chuck Smalley and his wife Mary have lived in the house since 1950. The couple met after Chuck Smalley’s time in the service. They fell in love and were married in 1949. They raised six children and made their house a home.

READ: World War II veteran loses home to devastating fire in Flat Rock

The fire that destroyed their home started in the garage and spread quickly. Fire crews said there wasn’t much to do to stop the fire.

“I don’t question God’s purpose in it -- must be teaching me something. I don’t know what it is, but even at my age I guess I’ll learn something,” Chuck Smalley said after the fire.

Mary Smalley’s wedding dress and the photographic slides were saved from the fire. The Bernstein family saw the Smalley’s story on Local 4 and offered to have those slides restored and scanned so the couple could hold onto their memories. People with Woodward Camera in Birmingham took it from there.

All of the slides had been spared from the heat of the fire and were able to be cleaned and stored. The process was long and tedious. Kylee Diedrich is a technician on the project and said after working with the slides you start to feel like you’re part of the family.

Six months after the fire, Chuck and Mary Smalley had no idea the project was happening until Monday. They’re happy to have these cherished memories back.

The couple did have insurance and work is continuing on their house. They should be able to return home in the spring.

Chuck and Mary Smalley.
Chuck and Mary Smalley.

About the Authors: