Families of cancer patients can attest to the lonely feeling someone goes through after being diagnosed. Kirt Stassi, 49, of Colusa knew this feeling himself when he was diagnosed the day after Christmas, December 26, 2017 with Melanoma on a lung. His Mother had been diagnosed just six weeks prior to his diagnosis and passed away three weeks later.
In a particularly rough time for the Stassi family, friends like Gridley's Joe Duran stepped in to make their life a little easier. Nothing about the surprise Joe and many more friends had in mind can be referred to as little.
Duran and Kirt had worked together the past seven or eight years as Kirt is a general contractor and Duran is an electrician.
What started out with the Duran's and others taking dinner to the family, grew to much more and Duran looked out their kitchen window and saw the fence that had been in the process of rebuilding with just the poles up for about a year with everything else taking precedence.
"I thought to myself, that needs to get finished and the landscaping put in to just have the pressure of the "eyesore" to be lifted off of the family to have a place to enjoy company or just some piece and quiet. The wheels started turning in my head on how to make this happen," Duran explained.
As Duran met with more of Stassi's friends, such as Matt Alonzo and Halbert Charter, they discussed how to get the projects done with the list growing and the fact that they needed to get the family away so that they could work on the "secret project."
"The support of the friends and community for this project was amazing as more ideas of how to make life a little easier for the Stassi's kept pouring in," Duran stated.
At the end of February Duran arranged for the Stassi family to spend three days in Fort Bragg, a much needed get-away. Kirt's wife Susie was told that Joe, his son Kyle and the Stassi's son Cole were going to work on a fence that needed to be put up to surprise Kirt when he got home.
The plan to have the family gone by noon so that the work could begin was delayed because Kirt had just returned from a trip to Idaho on a snowmobile trip with some friends and was delayed due to snow in Reno on I80. Asking for a couple of hours to rest, Kirt was pushed by his son to leave as he knew there were rippers, excavators, compactors, tractors, and a whole lot of people staged all over town waiting for them to leave to start the work.
Once the family had driven out the driveway, a group text to over 80 people was sent by Duran stating it was "go time." The first piece of equipment rolled in seven minutes later. It is safe to say the people who worked on this monumental project and helped finance it ranged from Yuba, Sutter, Butte, Colusa and Glenn Counties at least.
"Within the first hour there was $2 million in equipment in their yard ready to work. People showed up in droves. We had the materials and tasks all laid out ahead of time. We worked til midnight the first night," Duran explained.
The first day the many hard workers dismantled 400 feet of chain link fence, removed over 50 overgrown trees, graded a two foot high area the size of a football field to level with the rest of the property, dug up most of the existing sprinklers in the backyard, removed all the dead grass and weeds for replanting, pressure washed the house and prepped to start the painting of the house the next day. It didn't stop when the house was completely painted, it was time to paint the trim on the 3,000 square foot house, paint the front door, finish a bench, and install new light fixtures. They even put up LED rope lights on the underside of the trim on the patio.
What started with the fence to be put up, had grown to landscaping the entire yard, painting the house, planting four-and-a-half acres in pecans, numerous electrical projects, retaining walls built and pads poured, a road built for them - all in 51 hours.
Duran estimates there were around 75 people who worked Friday, 125 on Saturday and 150 on Sunday.
"I figure it was 5,000 working hours. We raised $26,000 in six days for all of these projects," Duran stated.
"This had to be between $300,000 and $350,000 worth of work for them," he said.
The team leaders were ecstatic that the Stassi children had an app on their phones and could track their vehicle and finished the last of the clean-up as the Stassi's were just 30 minutes out.
After three glorious days at the coast, nearing their home, the Stassi's were pulled over by a Colusa County Sheriff's patrol car and they were told everything was fine but that they needed to follow them home.
Once reaching their driveway, complete with sirens blaring from the patrol car, the family was greeted by approximately 150 people, all wearing t-shirts that bore a black ribbon on the front stating, "No one fights alone," and on the back "Team Stassi."
Now this would be enough to bring anyone to tears and it certainly did according to Susie.
But when the family got out of their car and noticed the huge amount of work done in the short amount of time it was shocking to say the least.
The magnitude of each job completed is amazing but just the pecan orchard story alone is unbelievable.
Susie explained they had waited four to five years to get this project started with other projects taking precedence over the years. Normally, the trees are ordered and it takes two to three years to receive them.
Duran told the story of another friend of Stassi who was out to dinner in Yuba City and mentioned he needed someone who knows about pecan trees who could get trees quickly for this important project. According to Duran, the friend knew Steve Burgess who specializes in pecans and he was at the same restaurant at that time and offered his help stating he already knew the Stassi's orchard and knew the layout.
"What are the odds of that?" Duran asked. Burgess called two to three hours later and stated he would have the trees the next Wednesday from a nursery who could supply them.
To have the 4.5 acres planted in pecans, Duran stated, "I can't describe the feeling."
Duran admitted he didn't sleep the night before the big projects started on a Friday with everything running through his mind, in particular the tools and equipment needed. He worked Friday from 7 a.m., to midnight. Back on Saturday by 5 a.m., from Gridley, Duran lasted til 2 a.m., and back at 6:30 a.m., on Sunday.
A friend with two drones was on hand the entire time to film the work being done so that the Stassi family can relive the work that was done.
Susie stated when the family drove up to find 150 people lined down their driveway she immediately went to tears and then when they realized the magnitude of the work accomplished in just 51 hours it was even more mind blowing.
"These were not only long-time dear friends but it was also acquaintances, people we didn't know all that well," Susie said explaining that she works for Pierce School District and she and Kirt both serve as coaches. The Pierce baseball and softball teams were on hand to help.
"After the shock of it I realized they painted our house and even put up a new mailbox. We kept finding more and more done. We arrived in Fort Bragg and were overcome with emotion that there was a gift basket waiting for us. We were clueless as to what we were coming home to," Susie said.
As for the tremendous orchard work done, Susie said they had tried to get the orchard in for four to five years primarily with the irrigation system and it was put in in 48 hours.
"Our trees are starting to bud," she exclaimed happily.
"Joe is incredible. He has a total heart of gold rallying all these people around to do this vast amount of work for us," Susie said.
This shows there is still good in the world," Susie stated, reflecting on the many tragedies that occur almost daily anymore around the world.
The Stassi's have three children, Kyler 19, Cole ,16 and Kallie, 12.
"This is great for them to witness," she said.