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Cancer, wreck, fire can't stop business

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POSTED: March 6, 2007 5:09 a.m.
Kevin and Angie Butler have had a big share of life’s problems but trouble has not stopped them from realizing their life’s dream of opening a restaurant.
A month ago, the Butlers lost everything they owned in a house fire. The tragedy drove them to focus on finishing renovations on the building in Midway that is now Angie’s Diner. The open light was turned on in late December, but the diner had its grand opening Friday and stands as a memorial to commitment.
Mayor Don Emmons was one of the lunch customers and a stream of diners came in throughout the day. The family atmosphere is welcoming and the spacious diner accommodates small and large parties.
“People come in with their laptops, books and stay all day,” Kevin Butler said. “We wanted a place to have our kids here and people can have their kids here,” he said.
The diner’s bright colors and décor contradicts the challenges the Butlers have endured.
The battle to survive didn’t start with the house fire. In 2004, Kevin Butler was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He used to do industrial construction for a company in Savannah until sickness and cancer treatments interfered with his life’s work. With her husband forced to end his career, Angie Butler continued to work to keep the family’s health benefits.
“He’s been cancer free for eight months now,” she said. “So far that’s been a blessing.”
She nearly missed the grand opening of her namesake diner to take her daughter to a chiropractor. Sixteen-year-old Brittany Butler survived a bad car crash on Jan. 12. The accident totaled the car and left her with a twisted spine and a chipped vertebra.
“She’s strong. She would have been here but she’s still recovering from the accident,” Angie Butler said Friday night reflecting on the family’s trials.
An electrical fire blazed around 10 o’clock on the night of Jan. 18 and damaged much of the Butler’s home. What the fire did not burn, the smoke and heat destroyed.
The home’s smoke detectors did not work but a noise awoke Kevin Butler.
“I’m sort of a light sleeper. I heard a noise that I didn’t know what it was,” Kevin Butler said. “I looked off to the side and I saw a light.”
Thinking it was a light left own by either his 11-year-old son or teenage daughter, Butler got up to turn it off.
“I walked into the kitchen and noticed the utility room was on fire,” he said.
He was able to contain the fire just as emergency workers arrived.
The Butlers soon moved into a borrowed guesthouse offered by a neighbor.
“We couldn’t salvage anything. We gathered everything left by the fire in some plastic bags and moved right in,” Angie Butler said. “I literally had only the boxers I wore to bed,” Kevin Butler added.
The friend’s guest bungalow was equipped with everything they needed. While the family sorted out the details of what happened, Kevin Butler got up within hours and went to work at the diner. He was up at 5 am working on the family’s dream. “I had on borrowed pants and a borrowed shirt,” he said.
“If it weren’t for the restaurant I don’t know. It’s all we have,” Butler said. “Literally,” his wife chimed in. “It was under insured. The insurance company paid off the trailer and gave us $250 to dispose of it any way we see fit.”
“We’re going to go ahead and try to fix it,” Kevin Butler said. “We really don’t have any choice.  I’ve talked to some people and they said it would be a lot of work but it can be done.
“It’s been trying, but we have some good friends,” Kevin Butler said.
“We’ll make it somehow,” his wife said.
 

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