Orange County Digest

Irvine : Quadriplegic Back in Apartment After Fire

December 27, 1985|Roxana Kopetman \f7

Like others looking forward to post-Christmas sales, Richard Pfost plans to do plenty of bargain buying.

But for Pfost, this shopping spree will be different. A quadriplegic who lost his home and all his possessions during a fire in September, Pfost returned to his rebuilt--but empty--Irvine apartment just in time for Christmas.

"It wasn't quite as happy as it was last year," Pfost said of his holiday. But the 48-year-old Irvine Valley College student said the fire has made him realize that he's "blessed" with friends. Those friends--students, faculty and others--donated about $15,000 after the Sept. 9 arson fire destroyed the apartment, which is especially equipped to meet his needs.

Until Dec. 19, Pfost, who was paralyzed in a 1981 truck collision, and his live-in aide were guests of the Irvine Hilton Hotel, a donation from the hotel and the Irvine Co. Until the suites were made available in October, Pfost had to stay at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Long Beach for lack of a better place equipped to meet his needs.

"It was really surprising that anyone would donate anything. It knocked me off my feet. I still don't know how to tell people how much I appreciate it," Pfost said.

"I've been blessed. I've got friends coming out of my ears. I don't know where they're coming from," Pfost said of the outpouring of help from strangers.

Although Pfost had to drop four classes, he finished five others and plans to continue with his schooling in the coming year. While he strives toward degrees in accounting, computers and economics, his aide and fellow student, Bessie Manu, said she plans to study medicine.

Pfost is well-recognized in the small Irvine college, motoring the two miles to and from classes in his wheelchair. He's also a familiar sight to his neighbors. On Christmas Eve, he said, about a dozen of the neighborhood children showed the Idaho native their regard for him by giving him a large card "welcoming me home."

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