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Old drawers close flood chapter for Brisbane family

By Jessica Hinchliffe and Terri Begley, Tuesday August 5, 2014 - 14:06 EST
ABC image
Louise Toohey with the fully restored set of drawers destroyed in the 2011 Brisbane floods - ABC

A family has found closure from the 2011 Brisbane floods by using a form of crowd funding to restore an heirloom that was destroyed during the weather event.

Jim Toohey's family home in Sherwood was inundated, with floodwaters reaching the second storey of the house.

An old dresser handed down through his wife's family since the 1880s was one of the many items lost to the waters - until now.

The restored drawers were presented to Louise Toohey over the weekend as a surprise for her 50th birthday.

"Giving my wife this dresser has bought closure and [has given us] inspiration that [things] can be made good," said Mr Toohey.

The dresser was made by Mrs Toohey's great grandfather, a craftsman who cut the timber and carved the piece near Kilcoy in the late 1880s and it has been handed down through generations.

Mrs Toohey says she was blown away by the surprise.

"I always believed that one day we would be in a position to have the dresser restored but that it would be far in the future; it's been such a precious moment for all of us," she said.

Leaving the dresser behind

Mr Toohey recalls the speed of the floodwaters stopped him from saving the family's most treasured items, including his wife's wedding dress, wedding photos and home videos.

"In the run up to the flood I got my wife and kids out of the house, then for the last few hours I was on my own, but I couldn't manage to move it [the dresser] on my own and it went under," he said.

Mr Toohey said that during the aftermath there was a tendency to destroy most of the flood affected items.

"It was a very traumatic thing for my wife; when we had access to the house days later it was the first thing she went looking for," said Mr Toohey.

"She couldn't part with it, I told her it had to go but she was really upset by it, so I wrapped it in a tarp and put it in the shed to deal with it in the future."

Restoring the magic three years on

Fine mud had permeated throughout the dresser, solvents in the water damaged the paintwork and one of the draws floated away making restoration a nightmare.

Mr Toohey says with his wife's 50th birthday looming the family decided to do all they could to restore the dresser to its previous glory.

But the cost of the restoration was too great for the family, motivating them to ask guests to contribute to the project instead of buying gifts.

Within 10 days the family had all the money they required.

Mr Toohey says the men behind the restoration were excited to be working on such a piece of furniture.

"They were obsessive to restore it to the way it was and one of the men restoring it said even the nails were handmade," he said.

"It's all been about resilience, my wife and children have been extraordinarily resilient."


© ABC 2014

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