WWII Veteran Needs Help Rebuilding After Devastating House Fire

Robbie and Annie Clanagan recently paid off the 30-year mortgage on their dream home in Rapidan. On January 12, a fire in a wood stove in their basement spread. They lost their home and most of their belongings.

“I was calling on the Lord,” Annie said of her actions during the fire. “For us to be out, He’s helping.”

Now the Clanagans are looking to the community for help rebuilding.

Robbie is 92 years old. He’s a veteran of World War II who spent time on the Pacific Front. The two have been married for almost 63 years. They’ve known each other all their lives, growing up together in Little Washington.

Now the couple is raising a 13-year-old great-granddaughter. A grandson was also living with them when the fire occurred.

Robbie was in bed when Annie noticed the flames in the basement. He walks with a walker and fell while trying to escape. Annie said that he can’t get himself up when he falls and they weren’t able to pick him up. They ended up pulling him out and down the hill to get away from the fire.

Robbie had to be hospitalized for two days after falling unconscious from smoke inhalation and exhaustion.

The Clanagans and their great-granddaughter are staying with one of their five children in Cupleper.

Unfortunately, once they paid off their mortgage, their insurer wanted fixes made to the home in order to continue their homeowner’s insurance. The Clanagans were still working on the repairs in order to reinstate their insurance at the time of the fire.

Robbie hasn’t been as perky since the fire. “At times, I feel just terrible about it,” he says before accepting, “But then again, things happen.”

Annie is anxious to get a home built on land they own in Rapidan, near the Cedar Mountain Battlefied. She doesn’t want to feel like they are a burden on anyone else.

The two need around $60,000 in order to prepare the land and purchase a double-wide trailer to put on it. A GoFundMe account has been started to help the couple. People can also make donations to the Clanagan Home Fund at Union Bank & Trust.

Robbie served in the US Army Air Corps, joining them in April 1945 when he was 20 years old. He was born and raised on a farm and working on one when it came time for him to serve his country.

He wasn’t injured during his time in the service, but two of his friends were killed in a minefield.

He worked as a lineman, one of  900,000 African-Americans to serve in the segregated military during WWII.

He guarded a Japanese man that he considered a friend. His friend would ask him, “Why are you here fighting for your country when you can’t even go in the front door of a restaurant in your country?” He got Robbie thinking about things more.

When Robbie returned from the war, he came back to the Jim Crow laws that blocked him from going to certain places designated “whites only.”

He didn’t receive any medals for his efforts in the war. He returned home to the farm, married Annie when she turned 18 in 1954. He got a job as a car mechanic.

In the 1980s, the Clanagans had three children when the moved from Rappahannock to the home that was destroyed. Over the years they have helped take care of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Their family has helped them out as well, fredericksburg.com reported.

Annie works one day a week performing domestic services. She is praying they can go back to Rapidan, but she is grateful for all their children have done for them.

Twice recently, Annie has caught herself driving down the road to their old house. “To be honest, it’s still home,” she said.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE