Fellow teachers rally around history teacher whose house went up in flames

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ORANGE--A house fire may have left an Amity Regional High School teacher homeless, but it has not left him hopeless.

"It was frightening,” said Bob Catalde, a history teacher for 15 years at Amity High.

Around dinnertime on Sunday, September 11, Catalde, 61, and his wife were getting ready for an evening in when their lives changed.

“My wife was getting the board games out for Sunday night board game activity and then she yelled ‘honey, there's smoke upstairs,’” he said.

After successfully getting his wife and some of their pets out of their Glenbrook Road home in Orange, there was an explosion.

“The gas cans for the lawn mower blew and I realized there's nothing I can do,” he said.

It was especially heartbreaking for Catalde, because he grew up in the home, which he says he just finished painting over the summer.

While the home is expected to take nine months to repair, his friends and colleagues are helping him get by. A GoFundMe page set up by his fellow teachers has raised nearly $15,000 in just eight days.

“I had insurance that will pay for the reconstruction of the home, but being a high school teacher, I didn't have the type of insurance that pays for the interior, for the items,” said Catalde, whose insurance also does not cover the cost of the hotel room they are living. But, he is still expected to pay their mortgage.

“I tell my students every year there's great goodness in this world, and to not be so afraid,” he said. “All you need to do is look for it. Basically. people are good.”

His says that includes Amity Principal Anna Mahon, who was among the first to call him at Bridgeport Hospital the morning after the fire, and a close friend who gave Catalde a car.

“He said ‘you're to take this. I don't want to hear anything about it. You're to take it until you get a new car,’” Catdale said, with a smile.

Other than the blessings of the donations that he and his wife, Diana Hosen, have received over the past week, the best news for Catalde appeared in a front window Thursday morning.

“I couldn't find the kitten and you'll never guess. I set a trap last night and this morning, after all that time, she was sitting in the picture window inside the trap,” he said on Thursday, September 22, noting that the kitten checked out fine at a local veterinarian.

There will be other fundraising efforts on the couple’s behalf, including Saturday, October 8, at the Orange Ale House, where comedians will donate their time.