It’s not about the stuff, it’s about the overwhelming support, say new Sequim residents Steve and Jean Grudzien.
A few hours on the road to Sequim on Jan. 16 from their daughter’s home in Colorado, Steve answered a call from one of their movers — their moving truck was missing.
“I said ‘Very funny, guys. That’s hysterical; you’re actually convincing,’” Steve said.
“They convinced me it wasn’t a joke.”
More than 700 items including a majority of their clothes, furnishings, a grand piano, family heirlooms and pictures, decades of Christmas decorations, their children’s artwork and more were gone.
The Grudziens spent nearly three months documenting all of the stolen items for insurance purposes with help from a retired local paralegal offering free services.
Steve said the movers discovered the truck missing that morning of Jan. 16 from their hotel in Tukwila. It was found almost empty five days later with some family pictures and a few obscurities, such as two table legs and canopy bed knobs left behind.
With the unfortunate news, the couple continued to Sequim in their own truck with a U-Haul trailer carrying some tools, a few pairs of clothes and items too heavy for the moving truck, including the bottom half of a treadmill.
“We’re planning to buy an older, used one, and take the top off and use it with the bottom half,” Steve said.
The moving truck had their most important stuff, he added.
“[Jean] spent a few years getting rid of everything she didn’t want,” Steve said.
“I had talked with other people and they agreed you come to a point where you don’t need anything else,” Jean said.
The couple had retired a few years prior after owning a medical sales distributorship for more than 30 years. Coming to Sequim was “the last great adventure,” Jean said.
They visited family in Sequim last November, and Steve said “they did a great sales job.”
One of those family members, Jean’s aunt, who asked to remain anonymous, helped activate her church and friends to help her niece and husband.
Jean’s aunt said in a phone interview word spread through her church, Dungeness Community Church, and “people just responded amazingly” despite being strangers to them.
“You wouldn’t believe how much people furnished their house,” she said.
Jean said when they arrived most staples were there such as inflatable beds, a card table and chairs, kitchen goods and more, and as the week went on so did the giving.
“We have pretty much everything we need,” Jean said.
Her aunt said she and some friends helped her set up some of the items and more and more came in, such as a bed, washer and dryer, vacuum and more.
“It was just really spectacular,” Jean’s aunt said.
“It’s just another great affirmation of what a loving congregation we have and being so generous. They poured out all kinds of love and blessings on people they didn’t know … A lot of people who gave didn’t even know me either.”
Steve said they’ve passed along some of the items to help others too.
One neighbor gave them a tractor and wouldn’t accept payment, so the Grudziens baked her cookies. Another neighbor has offered his workshop to Steve and the new friends worked together on the tractor with Steve saying “his presence has made my life joyful.”
They also received free milk from Dungeness Valley Creamery, a good price on a table and chairs from Around Again, and free flowers from Trader Joe’s in Silverdale, the couple said.
Being in Sequim a few months now, the couple said they find themselves surprised by the kindness and generosity.
“We’re still not believing it all,” Steve said. “We’re not destitute. We were fine all along. The reaction we’ve gotten was far beyond what I would have expected.”
Said Jean, “People in the community have exceeded my expectations. Every time I think about the community, it’s that people are really that nice.
“Really, this isn’t about the belongings, it’s the generosity of the people.”
Steve said it’s refreshing to see people wave, and conversations in the grocery store.
While the theft wasn’t nearby, Jean’s aunt said it was still a shock to locals that someone would wake up one day and everything would be gone.
“It just brings out the best and everyone wants to help,” she said.
Now that insurance elements have been filed, Steve said their next step is returning to Toledo for Jean’s car and his boat before coming back to go fishing.