There was no question Clarence and Bernadette Dyreson’s home needed attention. There were squirrels in the crawl space upstairs. Sparrows were building nests in the walls.

Yet the elderly couple wasn’t in a position to fix it themselves. At 87 years old, Clarence is fragile. Bernadette said he developed Parkinson’s disease 20 to 30 years ago. Since then, it's become harder and harder for him to keep up with repairs.

Although she's 10 years younger than Clarence, there was only so much Bernadette could do for the house herself.

Fortunately, they received a helping hand. Family Service Rochester selected the couple to receive upgrades to their home with the help of a grant from the Home Depot Foundation and Meals on Wheels of America. This is the first year Family Service Rochester received the grant, which is meant to help veterans.

“They were facing some not-very-good options about having to leave this home,” said April Sutor, director of innovation and collaboration with Family Service Rochester. “They either had to have some major work done, or they were going to have to leave.”

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With help from his wife, Bernadette, Korean War veteran Clarence Dryeson gets settled on his front step to talk with Family Service Rochester staff and local media and to have a look at his new house siding Friday, October 16, 2020. “I’ve worked in construction all my life, and it looks pretty good to me,” Dryeson said about the project. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)
With help from his wife, Bernadette, Korean War veteran Clarence Dryeson gets settled on his front step to talk with Family Service Rochester staff and local media and to have a look at his new house siding Friday, October 16, 2020. “I’ve worked in construction all my life, and it looks pretty good to me,” Dryeson said about the project. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

Leaving would not have been an easy choice. The couple has lived in their home, located just east of Rochester, for the past 45 years. Clarence had already walked out of two care facilities because he didn't want to be there.

“He wanted to be home. We know that older people are better off in their homes … this is the ideal place for him,” Sutor said.

All told, Sutor said about $14,000 went into the project. The house received new siding to help keep the critters out. Some repairs went into the ceiling. The home also received some smaller upgrades to help the couple get around a little bit easier, such as railings and grab bars.

“It’s just a big weight off our shoulders,” Bernadette said. “I don’t think it’s all sunk in yet.”

One of the reasons the couple was chosen for the project is because of Clarence’s status as a veteran. He served in the Army and spent time overseas in Korea. In civilian life, he worked in construction. He said you can’t find a bridge in Rochester that he didn’t have a hand in building or fixing.

“I worked construction all my life, and it looks pretty good to me,” Clarence said of the upgrades to the house.

Post Bulletin Photo Editor Ken Klotzbach contributed to this report.