Almost every day, Roxanne Warneke takes a short walk from her mobile home with her infant daughter to see the progress of their house being built on their rural Avra Valley property.
“Every time I come out here I tell her, ‘You want to come take a look at your house?’ ” Roxanne said while standing at the construction site northwest of Tucson. Her daughter, Billie Grace, who was born in December, was sound asleep in a baby carrier her mother was wearing as they toured the site Monday.
The home taking shape is the result of thousands of dollars raised by the community to help the widow of fallen Granite Mountain Hot Shot William “Billy” Warneke, and the couple’s only child.
Billy Warneke, 25, was in the midst of remodeling the mobile home the couple bought as a fixer-upper on a 4-acre lot when he was called to fight the Yarnell Hill Fire near Prescott last June. He was one of 19 Hotshots killed in the blaze on June 30.
Southern Arizona firefighters and local organizations rallied to raise money to help complete his work. Their efforts helped raise about $100,000 in cash, $60,000 in grants and additional donations of materials and supplies and volunteer time. Organizers are still seeking additional donations.
After seeing the magnitude of the project, and with a desire to do what would best suit Roxanne and the baby’s needs, the decision was made to instead build a house, said Michael Johns, administration pastor of Victory Worship Center, who is serving as the home’s project manager.
“This was ultimately her goal. Her and her husband had drawn up plans, so it seemed like the most prudent thing to do,” Johns said.
Though the Warnekes were not part of the congregation, the church became involved with the project as a way to give back to the family of someone who gave his life protecting others, Johns said.
Billy Warneke chose the acreage because it backed up to the Ironwood Forest National Monument, allowing for unobstructed views of palo verde trees, creosote and saguaros.
“The way he talked about it, he would come alive,” Roxanne said. “He was really big into hunting, so he would say, ‘I could just step out in the backyard and start hunting.’ ”
Ground was broken for the 2,200-square-foot home in late November, and it’s expected to be completed in May. The framing is done, and crews are doing electrical and plumbing work.
The home will have three bedrooms, two baths and a nursery that could later be converted into an office, and an outdoor memorial for Billy Warneke. It is being built by contractor Travis Even, owner of Bezalel Builders.
Efforts have been made to make the home as energy-efficient as possible to minimize Roxanne’s future bills, Johns said.
Roxanne has helped with the details such as tile and drapes that will make the house feel like the home she and her husband dreamed of.
She chose a Mexican cowgirl theme for Billie Grace’s room, a nod to her husband’s childhood rodeo experience. “He said that if we had a girl that she would do barrel racing and if we had a boy he would do team roping,” Roxanne said.
She’s grateful to the community for the support shown for her family. “I can’t thank them enough; they’ve done so much for us,” she said.