Wilkinsons 'will be back on their feet'
Tragedy struck John and Alice Wilkinson when their home at 109 Sunny Valley Road in New Milford was demolished Wednesday as the result of an apparent propane explosion.
The blast killed Mr. Wilkinson's friend, Anthony Fratino III of New Miford, and seriously injured Mr. Fratino's 9-year-old son, Nicholas, and Mr. Wilkinson.
Nicholas is in a children's hospital in Boston. Mr. Wilkinson is in a burn unit at Bridgeport Hospital.
Carol Havens, Mr. Wilkinson's mother-in-law, said Thursday, "At least John's going to be okay."
Former Sherman First Selectman Tony Hapanowich, an extended family member, remembers happier days in the 1990s, when John and Alice groomed and showed Hereford cows from Mr. Hapanowich's Happy Acres farm in Sherman.
Alice was Alice Havens at that time, a Sherman native. John was from Bridgewater, also native born. The two were earning college degrees at the University of Connecticut.
"Those two were fond of grooming cows," Mr. Hapanowich said, "grooming cows, halter breaking cows, and leading cows to show."
Mr. Hapanowich's fireplace mantel is filled with ribbons and photos from prizes won at fairs in Goshen, Bridgewater, Durham and Springfield, Mass., where the young couple showed the animals.
"They practically lived here," Mr. Hapanowich said, "even before they were engaged they were constantly here together. John proposed to Alice right out here behind the barn."
When they married in 1998, the couple had a ceremony first in Bridgewater, then had a second ceremony at Happy Acres "on a knoll by a rock ledge that they loved," Mr. Hapanowich recalled.
"Showing my cows led them to having Herefords of their own," Mr. Hapanowich said. "They had a few cows at Northrup Street in Bridgewater at John's father's place."
"They're good people," Mr. Hapanowich added. "They worked hard for what they had."
John and Alice Wilkinson rented a house on the corner of Sunny Valley Lane from the Nature Conservancy for several years.
In November 2004, they bought the two-story farmhouse across the road at 109 Sunny Valley Road.
The three-bedroom, 1,344-square-foot house had oil heat, according to Vision Appraisal. It was built in 1939.
In reference to Alice's father, Addison Havens, Mr. Hapanowich said, "Addy is a builder by trade. He's going to get them back in a house, you'll see."
"And the good news is, John's going to be okay," he added. "It's going to be a long time, but they'll be back on their feet."
Alice Wilkinson, a scientist with Watson Foods, is pregnant with the couple's third child. She was not at home at the time of the blast.
John Wilkinson, 46, had been laid off from his job as a professor. It is unknown at this time where he taught.
He was the travel coordinator for the boys' teams of the Soccer Club of New Milford and served on the club's Board of Directors.
"John is a good guy," said Greg LaCava, the club president. "He came out of a cloud to help us out at the board level six months ago. He was doing a lot of behind the scenes work."
"He's a very involved dad," he remarked. "Before joining the board, he was helping out with coaching."
The couple's sons, fourth-grader Jake Wilkinson and first-grader Everett Wilkinson, were at a neighbor's home at the time of the blast.
They are now staying at their grandparents' home in Sherman.