Rachael Condiff said seeing more than 40 people, some complete strangers, come to her aid over Thanksgiving to help with numerous projects at the couple’s Navarre fixer-upper home has helped her cope with her husband’s freak parachute training accident.
NAVARRE — Cole Condiff can no longer take care of his wife, Rachael, nor his two little girls, 4-year-old Charley and 14-month-old Quinn.
The 29-year-old U.S. Air Force combat controller for the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field remains missing and is presumed dead from what the Air Force labels an “unplanned parachute departure” from a C-130 combat aircraft over the Gulf of Mexico late on the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 5.
However, family, friends and many good Samaritans from around Northwest Florida have stepped up to help the young family.
Rachael said seeing more than 40 people, some complete strangers, come to her aid over Thanksgiving to help with numerous projects at the couple’s Navarre fixer-upper home has helped her cope with her husband’s freak parachute training accident.
“It’s pretty tough but it would have been a lot harder if we didn’t have the community in this with us,” Rachael Condiff said. “(Cole) would love it. He just wants his family taken care of. I know he would appreciate it.”
She said her husband had planned to build a playground set for his daughters. Instead, after he passed, others donated it and volunteered to assemble it for the girls to play on.
Quinn waddles as fast as she can toward it as soon as she steps outside. It’s obvious both daughters enjoy the playground set and trampoline,
“They had a hard time at first,” Rachael said of Charley and Quinn dealing with the loss of their father. “But they’re used to him being gone and not seeing him for a long time.”
In addition to assembling the playground set, people coming to the aid of Rachael Condiff and her daughters cleared brush from the backyard to make a bigger play area for the girls and the family dog, Xena. Rachael said it was another project she and Cole had planned to do eventually.
“All of this is over the top,” she said. “I love it.”
Mike West, who serves on the board of directors of the Combat Control Association, estimated about $22,000 in materials has been donated already for landscaping and remodeling at the Condiff home, not counting the value of the volunteer labor.
“I’m blown away by all the people who didn’t even know Rachael, who stepped on a tractor and mowed her lawn or stepped up and poured concrete,” said West, a retired chief master sergeant who spent 30 years as a combat controller like Cole.
West showed a picture he took of Charley with a big smile after she was the first one to go down the slide on the playground set.
Other renovations included tearing out a wood deck and fence, fixing the front porch and pouring concrete for a patio in the back that includes a fire pit, lawn furniture and a grill. A flagpole flying the Stars and Stripes was installed in the front yard in honor of Cole. Flowerbeds were added around the house and along a new fence put in to replace the old one.
Projects still left to do include a new roof, new siding and new windows. Sod and a sprinkler system also are planned.
Randy Wise Homes, Sandbox Boyz, Gulf Eagle, SEC Roofing, PJ Association, Primelending, Lowe’s, Ocmulgee Concrete Services, Ace Hardware, Kodey Landscaping and many other groups and individuals contributed, West said.
Some people worked as late as 10 p.m.
“It makes me feel part of a family,” Rachael said about the community improvements to her family’s home. “I appreciate everyone who has been helping. Even though this is a bad situation you can still make things positive by helping someone in need.”
Chris Buttrill and his crew of nine from Sandbox Boyz volunteered and cleared away all of the tree debris in the backyard. He said they were just happy to participate.
“They are left with all of these big questions,” Buttrill said. “We can take care of all the little things that don’t matter.”
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On Friday, Hurlburt Field will hold a private memorial for Cole Condiff, for whom the Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy and Army personnel, along with state and local law-enforcement and emergency response agencies, searched around the clock for 17 straight days.
If you would like to donate to the Condiff family, a GoFundMe campaign is online at https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-condiff-family, The campaign had raised more than $112,258 of its $200,000 goal as of Thursday.
Additionally, the Remember the Fallen Games is holding a benefit for Rachael Condiff and her two daughters that is scheduled for noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14 at KC’s Sandbar & Grille at 190 Miracle Strip Parkway NE in Fort Walton Beach. More information on the event is available online at https://www.facebook.com/events/428908937771465/.