A symbol of a new start

JEWELL – The ice cream truck parked in front of 500 Anderson St. in Jewell the past few weeks looks happy and fun, something that makes its customers smile and hurry to buy a cool treat as it passes down the street.

But to the Marsh family, the truck is more than that. It’s the symbol of a new start toward the next chapter of their life. And it means that they are moving forward after a devastating fire leveled the Jewell home of the family of seven on Aug. 9, 2012.

The ice cream truck will soon be seen on the residential streets of Fort Dodge, driven by Jennifer Marsh in a new venture that she hopes will “make memories for people” in a happy, if not unusual, way. Husband Bruce Marsh has been working as a civil engineer for McClure Engineering in Fort Dodge for two years now.

It’s been quite a year for the Marsh family, “and we’re excited to move on,” said Jennifer Marsh from the Jewell home they have rented since the fire. “It will be therapeutic for us to be in a new town.

“It was hard to lose our house, but we didn’t lose any of us,” she says thoughtfully, referring to their five children, ages 17 , 15 , 5, and twins 2 . “Even though (household) insurance was tough on us, we realize that we didn’t lose a child. Still, losing a house is so much like a death in the family.”

How did they all get through the loss?

“Without everyone in Jewell helping us with support and material goods, it would have been different. All of our immediate needs were met,” she said.

“I don’t think anyone will ever have the capacity to understand how grateful I am as a mother. The generosity went much further than I expected. I was very humbled by the way people thought of us,” said Marsh, 38. “The town was so good to us. It was phenomenal. Everything we have was given to us.

“I call it extra love. I just don’t think people realize how much it all meant to us,” she said.

The family has lived in Jewell for 14 years, and as Marsh sees it they will be taking a part of Jewell with them.

“There were just so many things given to us that are very special and that I will continue to use when we get settled again,” she said. As an example, she recalls the quilts that “so many people made and donated to us.”

And what have they all learned from this experience?

“I know that some very generous things were done for us. People are good,” she said. “And I’ve learned we are adaptable. The fact that we have survived all this means something. And I’ve learned about priorities and how your house affects your daily life.”

Just as Marsh is excited about using the ice cream truck this summer, she’s looking forward to making a new home with her family in an historic home in Fort Dodge. The Bennett house, at 911 Third Avenue South, was built in 1895, and has had just one other owner since then before the Marsh family.

“It’s fun to get a chunk of history,” she said. “There is so much about this house that is just us. We plan to be in this house for a long time. This is a house to be married in.”

And yet it is a bittersweet change, too.

“We have lots and lots of good memories here,” Marsh said of the community they are leaving. “But we’re excited to get on to this next stage.”

So it looks like a happy ending as well as a promising new beginning for the Marsh family. It might seem like they lost everything in the fire last summer, but they didn’t. With the love and support of their community, they’ve been able to make a new normal and to move on.