94-year-old veteran receives overwhelming support after house fire

SHIP BOTTOM, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "I've had a good life, oh, I've really had a good life," said 94-year-old Paul Roberts.

Roberts, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, was born during the Great Depression and grew up during World War II. He has lived in Ship Bottom, New Jersey, ever since retiring from a career as a mailman in the 1980s.

"It's a great place to live, I'll tell you," he said.

Roberts enjoys taking daily walks and riding his bicycle. It was a routine that the Long Beach Island community came to learn and love.

"He's the whole neighborhood," said neighbor Richard Obermayer. "He's like the mayor."

And on Monday, March 14, 2022, it was the whole neighborhood that came out to support Roberts.

"I seen smoke coming in the bathroom door," he said. "I took one breath and I knew right away I would never take a second breath and live."

Roberts was lucky to make it out alive as he watched a fire ravage his 102-year-old home. Obermayer was one of the first to lend a hand.

"I had an old pair of work jeans. They don't fit him too good, but at least he had pants and a shirt to wear," he said. "It's what he would have done for me if I was in his situation."

Obermayer's daughter, Erin, created a GoFundMe page to recognize Roberts' situation and provide financial support. It has since received over $125,000 from donors near and far.

"How many people do I got to thank for all that? How do you thank people?" asked Roberts.

In addition, community members have donated dozens of gift cards to Roberts. They've purchased clothes and shoes to help rebuild his wardrobe. And business owners like Melanie Magaziner have also chipped in.

"We are hosting a dinner on Monday evening, April 11, at the Black Whale Bar and Fish House," she said. "So, the more you eat, the more we can donate."

In the face of tragedy, the community has helped Roberts wake up every day with a smile on his face.

"There's a lot of good people in this world, I found out. I don't know what I would have done without them," he said. "I appreciate everything. God bless you all."

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