Steve Degner who has been with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office since 1983 retired last month. But after the years of helping people that has not stopped. Degner spoke with Walter Conley, a resident of River Plantation Subdivision which suffered severe damage from the San Jacinto River. Conley has lived in the home on River Plantation Drive with his wife Patricia. He raised his two daughters, Connie Hudson and Kathy Smarinsky in that home which was built in 1972. Conley was unable to afford to get his home back in shape let alone debris removed. Some church volunteers came in to do the demolition and clean up. However, there are no funds for the repairs as Conley, like many others did not have flood insurance. Conley, grew up in Oklahoma and when he heard Pearl Harbor was bombed he decided to join the military. Being barely 17-years-old he told his father of his plans. The only request his father had was to finish plowing the peanut field with the mule. He did and immediately hitch hiked to Muskogee, Oklahoma. At 140 pounds, the Marines turned him down but told him to check with the Navy. The Navy recruiter heard this and immediately signed him up. After training at San Diego, he was sent to the East Coast and assigned to PT-109. the same boat that John F. Kennedy served on. However just before he was deployed, he came down with pneumonia and after a short time in the hospital was reassigned. Conley saw plenty of action in World War II. After the nuclear bomb was dropped he was moved to Tokyo Bay as a demolitions expert to remove the mines. He was finally sent home but that wasn’t enough for him. Since most of his assignment were involving Marines, he had gotten plenty of combat experience. He joined the Army and a Colonial, seeing his age and experience assigned him to help train young soldiers coming in. The Colonial was so impressed he made him a Second Lieutenant. However, Conley, seeing that he was the only Second Lieutenant decided with his wife and a brand-new baby that it was time to quit. He went on to college under the GI Bill and became a geologist for Exxon.
Now with Conley’s home flooded, Degner figured it would be easy to get help for this man. He called the Navy in Conroe who was unable to help. He then tried the Navy in Houston and again, no help. That’s when he called on another Veteran and former Montgomery County Precinct 2 Constable Floyd Stewart. Stewart is the Commander of the VFW in Conroe and immediately went to work. Making a trip to Austin, Stewart was able to get a $500 check for living expenses. An additional $2500 for living expense is available from the State VFW. Along with that Stewart raised $500 from the local Conroe VFW and it’s members.
NOTE: This Veterans home had 48 inches of water, it is a two-story and volunteers have pulled sheetrock and insulation and cleaned it up. However, one thing I noticed during my time there is this home was built in 1972, This being the time aluminum wiring was used in homes. Within 2-years it was deemed dangerous and has been the cause of many fires. Conley’s outlets were rusted in the box. He only needs 48″ of sheetrock and cabinets etc. replaced, but it would be nice to find a way to pull additional sheetrock and put the safer copper wire in the home.