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Flooded: A lifetime of memories destroyed
84-year-old Elvis impersonator rebuilds life after disaster
0926 12-7

Elvis left the building on a boat Monday afternoon.

Charles Grimes, an 84-year-old Elvis impersonator, and his wife Betty were rescued from their Lake Sorrento Drive home by the Fire and Rescue Squad. He had been keeping a close watch out the rear windows of his home, which backs up to the Yellow River, and hadn’t noticed how quickly the water had risen in the front from Lake Capri. They were alerted when Fire and Rescue knocked on their front door and ferried them away, having to board Betty on a stretcher due to her physical limitations.

The flood waters peaked about half-way up the windows on their ranch-style home, wreaking havoc and utter destruction on a lifetime’s worth of belongings and mementos.

“You work all your life, then here it goes,” he said, looking over the mess. Mud and grime have taken up residence on every surface in the home. It’s hard to tell what’s what because the turbulent flood waters scrambled

furniture, appliances, dishes and even their wedding album, haphazardly tossing them around the home and garage.

On Thursday, Grimes and his grandson-in-law, Chris Forte of Woodstock, began the daunting clean-up process. Forte discovered Charles and Betty’s wedding album underneath a car in the garage, as well as a Lane cedar chest that contained many generations’ worth of family pictures. He says his wife, Jennifer, had intended to start scanning and archiving them.

Grimes’ other vehicle, the “Elvis mobile” on which he had painstakingly glued more than 5,000 plastic coins, was yet another victim of flood waters. Neighbor David Henderson said, “We were afraid the car had ended up at the bottom of the lake, but after the waters receded we discovered it caught up in some bushes just at the edge of the lake.”

Grimes is distraught that he will have to put a hold on his 10-year career of performing as “the King.” All his costumes, speakers, amplifiers and equipment were destroyed in the flood. The former vice-president of North Brothers Insulation delighted in performing for his audiences, composed mainly of nursing home residents and senior center guests. Many performances were fundraisers for causes such as a medical procedure for a blind boy.

“He went overboard raising thousands of dollars for my grandson,” said Tami Cosby. Grimes not only performed at four different events for this cause, but he also set up the venue spaces.

He had opted not to pay for flood insurance because it was pretty high – he approximated $1,000 per year. For 21-plus years, the gamble paid off, until this past Monday. Since the evacuation, they have been staying at Country Inn & Suites, courtesy of Rockdale Emergency Relief’s efforts. Incidentally, he recalls performing at RER’s Christmas party years ago. That assistance will end Sept. 28, when he hopes to rent a place close-by. Grimes’ says an immediate goal is to “clean up the back porch so I can get my cats out of the vet.” Adding to the challenges ahead, his wife, Betty has been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for the last four years and he had been caring for her at home. “Sometimes she can’t even remember why we’re over at the hotel,” he said.

After the morning’s trauma of sorting through the wreckage, arranging for a dumpster delivery and dealing with the car insurance company, Grimes headed back over to check on his beloved and made sure she eats lunch before he resumed work on his home.

Luckily, Grimes has the support of his family. Grandson Chris took some vacation time to lend a hand after a week of working non-stop in his position as a DCL tech with AT&T repairing fiber optics damaged by the storms.

To donate money or time to aid local flood victims, contact Rockdale Emergency Relief at (770) 922-0165.