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New Addition Helps Family Deal With Loss Of Loved One In West Explosion

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MCLENNAN COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – This week marks one year since the West Fertilizer Plant explosion.

The blast killed 15 people — including father and volunteer firefighter Perry Calvin. His family spoke with CBS 11 News about their unexpected loss and the new addition that is helping them work through it.

Just about everything on the Calvin family farm, Perry Calvin had a hand in building, or fixing. The pens, the sheds, even the old ’69 Ford in the pasture that all the kids got as a first car.

“That’s the one they all learned to drive on,” Phil Calvin said chucking.

Phil remembered that his son once tried to fix the pickup and it fell on him.

According to family members Perry was always trying to fix something on the farm. But this past year, some of that fixing just didn’t get done.

“Last summer it was hard to get in the tractor without thinking of him being in the tractor on the other side of the field,” Phil said quietly.

On the night of April 17, 2013, Perry left an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) class to fight the fire at West Fertilizer.

The 37-year-old had been a volunteer firefighter with his dad since the family’s hay caught fire one year. He was training to do the work full-time.

Perry’s wife, Becky, explained that his choice was simple. “Because he loved fighting fire. He loved being a fireman. It’s what he wanted to do.”

Becky and the couple’s two boys, still live just down the road from where Perry grew up. Three weeks before he died, she told him the family was about to get bigger.
It was a bittersweet day she said, when Presley Calvin was born in November. “Everyone will tell stories… but I just hate that she’ll never know him, like the rest of us did.”

Becky said their daughter is “perfect” and said the little girl has brought joy to the family.

But some days are still difficult. Phil admits he doesn’t jump in the fire truck for many car crashes, or medical calls anymore.

But the new grandpa said he finds some solace in that old pickup in the pasture — the one that fell on Perry. “He was lucky it didn’t kill him. The doctor couldn’t figure out why it didn’t kill him.”

As for where his son was last year and why he lost his life then, Phil has no questions. “Him being over at West, like I say I don’t know whether he got one person out or a dozen people out. But we felt like that was probably why he didn’t die in ‘96, ‘cause there was something else for him to do.”

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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