Kevin Welsh has a knack for piecing things together. Demolition derby cars, antique tractors, wood and copper art, financial portfolios.
His strategy is a bit like a game of Jenga: “Gather all the pieces, lay them out and see what you can put together without the whole thing falling apart.”
Even if he starts with a plan, he’s accustomed to changing course.
Like in June 2017, when he and wife Heather bought a lake house. Twenty-four hours after closing the deal, a tornado tore the roof off the house and a separate garage.
There was no hesitation. Roof replacement began the next day. By July, the family of five was spending quality time in the water and on the beach at Hanson Lake 2.
The Welshes bought the Sarpy County property from a couple who had owned it for 50 years. By summer’s end, Kevin and Heather could see themselves hanging on to the place for a number of years themselves.
The four previous summers were spent traveling the country in an RV. With 40-some states checked off and Mackenzie, 17; Cassidy, 14; and Landon, 12, involved with sports and part-time jobs, the La Vista family decided to sell the RV and invest in a weekend cabin with an easy commute.
There was an ulterior motive as well. Mom and Dad liked the idea of having a lake house where teens would eagerly gather. “We wanted to be the hall monitors by default,” Kevin says. “That was our plan, unbeknownst to our children.”
“Our friends are eager to come out to swim, especially with the city pools closed for the summer,” Cassidy says.
In September 2018, the Welshes converted a three-season space into one that could be used year-round. A half-story was added as a sleeping area for the kids. Kevin also worked a covered pavilion into the plan.
The project was on schedule to be done June 1.
When Kevin stopped by March 14, workers were gearing up to install the exterior siding. The next day, the Platte River came pouring over the dike.
The Welsh house — and the rest of the lake community — wallowed under 5 feet of water, muck and goo.
“The renovation was 80% complete,” Kevin says.
The floodwaters ruined the drywall and the electrical and plumbing systems and left a smelly, thick blanket of muck and debris.
A dilemma weighed heavily: “Do you sell and lose the money or do you finish the dream?”
“It was going to be expensive to fix it or to walk away,” Kevin says. “The project went from a renovation to a new house.”
Bolte Construction and Miller Construction helped the Welshes regroup and rebuild. They would construct a new house over the existing one, and then dismantle the pieces that no longer were connected.
“We redesigned from the inside-out,” Kevin says.
The project was move-in ready Aug. 1, 2019. In October, lightning struck the house and ruined the electronics. And once again, repairs came quickly.
The Welshes enjoy having friends and family over and took their traffic patterns into consideration in determining the floor plan, hardscapes and furnishings.
“Everybody comes in, looks for a place to drop their gear and their food and then heads for either the patio or the beach.”
Heather handled the interior decorating while Kevin scoured Craigslist and poured his creative talents into one-of-a-kind interior and exterior accents.
For the pavilion, he bought an old grain bin for $150. The corrugated steel siding accents the ceiling and the bar. Reclaimed barn wood, vintage tractor and pickup truck parts, and original copper art found their way into seating, signage, trim and other conversation pieces.
If there’s a downside to living at Hanson Lake, it’s the demographic. “There aren’t many kids out here,” Cassidy says. “Most of the people are retired.”
But that doesn’t dampen the fun.
The Welsh kids enjoy riding their bikes or walking the 2.6 miles around the lake. It’s flat, so it’s easy. The family has a pontoon boat, and soon will have a motor boat for even better inner tubing and water-skiing.
The Welshes sheltered in place at the lake this spring and will stay until school starts in the fall. The kids attend Papillion-La Vista Public Schools, where Heather is a substitute teacher. Kevin is a financial advisor.
“The Platte River is not good at social distancing. It got right in our face,” Kevin says of the flood of 2019. “But because of that, it’s turned into what it is, and it’s pretty sweet.”