Life finally getting back to normal for 1982 LMU Alum, Ted Osborne, after Gatlinburg fire.

LMU alum Ted Osborne, ’82, is finally back home after spending the winter months in his gift shop in The Smokies.

Beech Branch Crafts had doubled as his residence after he lost his home to the fire that ravaged Gatlinburg in Nov. 2016.

“When you get knocked down you have to get right back up,” Ted said.

When Ted finally left his home the day of the fire, he and his elderly neighbor had just moments to spare. The flames were spreading quickly. He was able to salvage his mom’s quilts, his dad’s cane, some pictures, three dogs and a cat.  

He had spent the day raking leaves and spraying water on his property located in the area of Gatlinburg known as The Spur. Eventually the electricity failed and Ted realized his efforts to avoid disaster were not going to be enough. Trees had already fallen across the road to his home but he managed to drive over them and through the smoke and ash to safety.

He lost his home he had built there in 1988, his motorcycle, truck, tractor, and a riding mower. Sadley, he also lost keepsakes from his grandparents, his dad’s guns, plus pictures and valuable artwork.

“But it was stuff and stuff can be replaced,” he said.

More importantly, since the fire, Ted has felt blessed by the outpouring of support from the community and from the local churches. He also gives credit to local celebrity Dolly Parton for her assistance, “Because she is one of our own.”

“It’s unreal the help I have received. I’ve been so blessed. I am proud to be a member of this community,” he said.

He didn’t feel right taking without giving back, he added, so he organized a tool drive to help fire victims.

“People asked me what I needed and I don’t need clothes. I don’t need food. I needed tools,” he said.

Ted coordinated efforts to get tools and gift cards for 20 fire victims to help replace what they had lost.

Ted, a martial arts instructor, said his friends in the martial arts community have been supportive and are hosting a benefit for him in April.

His love for martial arts began when he took his first martial arts class as an LMU student in 1979.   A native of Pound, Va., Ted came to LMU in 1978 and studied art and business. He lived in Lafrentz-Poole and was president of the Sigma Pi Beta Fraternity. 

“I have friends from my days at LMU I can call and they’d be here right away if I needed them,” Ted said.

Ted is now back on his property living in a camper and already planning to build back his home and farm. “I’ve got my garden going so I’m happy,” he said.

While living in his shop he said he had plenty of offers of places to stay but that felt like home. Beech Branch Gifts arts and crafts and artwork.

As for the fire, “It brought out the good in a lot of people including myself,” he said.

Ted says he has collected and distributed $600 in gift cards and helped one family get a donated car. He mostly used his Facebook profile to communicate about fundraising efforts. 

Ted said some of the trees he had planted on his farm did survive, and he enjoys working in his vegetable garden. “It’s good therapy” he said.