96-year-old WWII Veteran survives Ian in a trailer

Reporter: Andrea Guerrero Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:
Water Hanhivara is a veteran who celebrated his 96th birthday on Feb. 8, 2022. (CREDIT: WINK News)

A 96-year-old WWII veteran survived Hurricane Ian in his flooded trailer.

Walter was not going to let Ian get the best of him. His belongings, on the other hand, didn’t fare as well.

WINK News met Walter back in February on his 96th birthday. People seemed to like the story because he was sent many birthday cards.

Inside a trailer on a blue recliner, that’s how Walter rode out Hurricane Ian while most, possibly all, of the others in the area evacuated.

But that’s not what he told Marcy Haskins, his granddaughter.

“He told me he was in a shelter,” Haskins said.

Walter told WINK News he thought Ian wasn’t going to hit Collier County, so he decided to stay.

“I went into survival mode, best way I could get through this was my thinking,” Walter said. “I didn’t know what to think at that point just had to endure, and the wind was howling.”

Then, water began rising to the top of his next-door neighbor’s trailer. From bad to worse, Walter’s trailer began to float away.

“I couldn’t fall apart I had to keep my sanity,” Walter said.

And, when his family learned the truth, that Walter didn’t evacuate, they were stunned.

“Shell-shocked; I mean the man just spent the night floating around the living room as a 96-year-old man,” Haskins said.

Grandpa Walter lost his home and most of his belongings in the storm. But, one thing that did make it were the 56 birthday cards WINK News viewers sent him for his birthday back in February.

After the storm passed, Haskins took Walter to her place and carried him to her condo, because there was no elevator. Since then, Walter has moved into an assisted living facility as the family scrambles for enough cash to rebuild his home or help him find a nursing home.

“I’m just thankful to be alive,” Walter said.

Previously, when WINK News spoke to Walter in February, he shared lessons he’s learned over the years. When asked what he’s learned going through this, he said, very clearly, he’s leaving next time a storm comes around.

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