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House fire has Meisters grateful for community support

Angie and Kurt Meister had the upstairs of their Rochester family home catch fire on Monday, Aug. 1, 2022. The Meisters are one of Rochester's most recognizable names when it comes to athletics.

Meister Family
The Meister family — Lincoln, Laynie, Angie, Lilly and Kurt — stand in front of their northwest Rochester home where the upstairs caught fire on Monday, Aug. 1, 2022.
Tucker Allen Covey / Post Bulletin
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If ever Angie Meister needed a reminder of just how much she covets “home,” it came on Monday, Aug. 1.

The Rochester native could have done without the nightmarish way it was served and the awful road that lies ahead for her, husband Kurt, son Lincoln and daughters Lilly and Laynie.

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But it happened. The upper level of their northwest Rochester home caught on fire early in the evening of Aug. 1, the source likely an old lamp that somehow sent a spark despite not even being turned on.

Youngest child Laynie, an incoming John Marshall sophomore, was the only family member in the house when the fire started. She was in the basement with friends when she heard their dog barking wildly and their smoke alarms going off. Kurt and Angie were miles away on a walk.

Laynie went to the middle floor, saw flames licking upstairs and quickly called 911 and also her parents. Kurt and Angie came home to firemen working desperately to put the fire out.

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The fire spread throughout the upstairs, destroying all four bedrooms, and turned clothes, guitars, athletic trophies and so many other personal belongings into melted or ashen memories.

“When we got home, it didn’t seem real, so I didn’t have a lot of emotion,” Kurt said. “But Angie was losing her mind. I just couldn’t believe it was happening.”

Meister Family
On Friday, Aug., 5, 2022, Lilly Meister goes through pages in a notebook that was saved on Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, from the fire that burned inside the family's Rochester home.
Tucker Allen Covey / Post Bulletin

The kind of nightmare that all families hope to avoid — a house fire and all of the loss and emotion that comes with it — was realized by the Meisters, one of Rochester’s most recognizable names when it comes to athletics.

Lilly was the Post Bulletin’s Girls Basketball Player of the Year this past season and a two-time All-State center who will be a freshman playing at Division I power Indiana University this fall. Lincoln was also a standout center at John Marshall who graduated in 2020 and now plays for Division II power University of Minnesota Duluth. Laynie is a budding standout forward at JM.

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Lilly Meister spent six years on the John Marshall girls basketball varsity. This past season was her best season ever, with her contributing mightily on the court and off it.

A surreal time

The entire family is home now, trying to salvage what they can before construction crews get to work on rebuilding the home, which wasn’t a complete loss.

“It is surreal,” said Angie, a former basketball star at JM and then South Dakota State University when she was Angie Swenson. That’s where she met fellow basketball star and future husband, Kurt.

“It is unbelievable,” Angie said. “We’ve lived in this house for 16 years and raised three kids here. There is a lot of stuff in there. The task in front of us is daunting.”

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As tough as things are now for Angie, Kurt and kids, displaced from their home for at least a year and racked by the sadness that comes with losing so much, what they’re feeling most isn’t anger or despair.

Instead, a polar-opposite emotion is winning out. It is gratitude. That comes from the care they’ve received in the wake of this disaster, with more community love and support than they ever could have imagined.

Since the fire happened, it’s been an endless stream of neighbors and friends stopping by the house to lend a hand, deliver meals and offer hugs and prayers.

The Meisters have also been overwhelmed by a GoFundMe campaign that was created for them by close family friend Richard Hurt, along with his wife Jenny; Brett and Kristi Gorden; and Jeremy and Sheree Nelson. And they are indebted to their direct neighbors, Steve and Mary Christopherson, who have permitted the Meisters the use of their house for the next month.

“When I get emotional now, it’s not about the house,” Angie said. “It’s about the outpouring of help and support we’ve received."

Angie has always had a strong allegiance and sense of belonging when it comes to her hometown, Rochester. But it’s at an all-time high now.

“We are not leaving Rochester,” she said. “There is no way we are leaving after this. This is our home. This is where I was raised. We just appreciate everything that people have done for us so much.”

Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
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