PLEASANT GAP - Ten days ago, Christine Koehle Manning's husband died in a hunting accident. Today, the 35-year-old is too busy worrying about losing her home to grieve.
Dustin Manning, 30, died Nov. 30 when he fell out of his tree stand after shooting an eight-point buck near his relatives' property in Rural Valley, Armstrong County.
The couple had been dealing with financial hardship for the past several years, starting with struggles to make their house payments after the interest rate spiked on their adjustable-rate mortgage.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich)
Christine Manning and her son, Kaiden, 2, pose next to a photo of Dustin, her deceased husband and Kaiden’s father. Dustin Manning died in a deer hunting accident Nov. 30, and his widow is asking banks for help to avoid foreclosure on their home.
Now the mortgage company, Wells Fargo, wants $50,000 in back payments and fees by Jan. 14 - or Manning and her 2-year-old son, Kaiden, will be forced out of their home.
"We understood that there was a possibility that we were going to have to move," Manning said, her eyes filling with tears. "And I could have handled that, because it was going to be the three of us. I can't do it by myself. I can't make [Kaiden] move - I can't take him out of the only home he's ever known."
Several family members and friends have offered their homes to Manning, an Altoona native and 1992 graduate of Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School, but she'd prefer to stay in her house.
"So many people have said, 'Come live with me,'" she said.
"But I don't want to leave my house. Those people's homes are not my house. I can do this on my own; I just need somebody to give me that second chance."
That chance, she said, would be in the form of a $50,000 loan with payments she could afford. On Monday morning, Manning sent an e-mail to several local banks asking for help but hadn't received any response as of Tuesday afternoon.
Manning's parents, Sue and Tony Koehle of Altoona, and her five siblings are "willing to do anything" to help her, Sue Koehle said.
"She's a good person, and I know she'll pay it back," Sue Koehle said. "She doesn't want a handout - she just wants help."
The family was also facing financial hardship from a Nov. 10 car accident that totaled Manning's car and left them with a bill for $833 that insurance didn't cover.
Manning broke her elbow and sprained her wrist and shoulder in the accident and was unable to work as a server at Mount Nittany Inn in Centre Hall.
It didn't help that this was a slow time of year for Dustin's independent drywall business, which he'd owned for seven years. Still, the family was full of hope as they celebrated her graduation from nursing school Nov. 24.
"It was a day we'd been looking forward to for two years. I was really happy he got to see that," Manning said. "I wished for the end of school - had I known what it was going to bring, my wishes would have been different."
Because Dustin was an independent contractor, the family couldn't afford life insurance. Dustin's family and Manning's sister each paid for half of his funeral and cremation costs.
Flower arrangements from the funeral home fill Manning's kitchen, and a framed photo of the buck Dustin shot just before his death sits on the counter. She plans to have the deer's head mounted on a plaque, along with a photo of her late husband.
"At least I know he was happy in his last minutes," she said. "He once explained to me the feeling you get when you kill a deer, and he said it was second only to having [Kaiden]."
Mirror Staff Writer Ashley Gurbal is at 946-7435.