DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Wednesday would have been their 26th wedding anniversary. But instead of spending the day celebrating with her husband, Juanita Foley reminisced on the happy memories before he was suddenly ripped from her life.
Ronald Foley, 72, died due to flooding caused by Tropical Storm Ian. He was one of five Volusia County residents to perish in one of the most devastating storms in Florida's history. The number of storm-related deaths rose Thursday to at least 101, including 92 in Florida.
Foley was in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps. He also served in Korea, his wife said. After he retired from the Army, he worked as a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office deputy for 30 years.
Juanita Foley said she and her husband moved to St. Augustine when she got a job with the St. Augustine Record. The couple then relocated to Palm Coast, and shortly after, her husband retired and they moved to Deltona in 2002.
"He was a good man. He was so dedicated and helped many people," she said.
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He is survived by three daughters and grandchildren in Texas.
Volusia County sheriff's investigators said he drowned on Thursday at 1 a.m. in a canal behind his house. He was draining excess water from his swimming pool and investigators believe he slipped down a steep hill.
Juanita Foley said her husband was worried that the pool, which was quickly filling with rain, would overflow into their house so he decided to pump the water from the pool into the canal.
Juanita saw her husband manning the hose but her view was then blocked by the screen door, so she didn't see him fall. But over the loud noise of the rain and wind, she said she heard a cry for help three times. She said she went looking for her husband and did not see him.
"It was black and rainy, and then I saw a light in the canal about 35 feet away," Juanita Foley said. "I just ran into the house and called 9-1-1. I didn't even know that it was my husband."
In an incident report, sheriff's deputies said they arrived at the home and found Ronald Foley face down in the canal. He was rushed to the hospital, where he died, sheriff's investigators said.
"Then they called and told me he had passed," Juanita said. "It was just devastating. I can't even describe how it felt."
And then, as an afterthought, she said: "He was able to save the house from flooding."
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'He was a good man'
Juanita Foley said she didn't expect any less from her husband, whom she has seen do brave things, a habit perhaps carried over from his military experience.
After retiring from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Foley went back to work as a security guard at John Knox Village, a senior living community, in Orange City.
He worked at John Knox Village for 10 years before retiring for good, Juanita Foley recalled.
"For 10 years he never missed a day (of work)," she said.
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Though she is devastated by her husband's death, she said she has many fond memories of her husband she will hold dear to her heart. They were enjoying their retirement by going on trips, going out to eat or spending time at their timeshare in the Smoky Mountains.
"He loved Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We went there every year for 15 years," she said. "We had a nice retirement."
She and Ronald Foley met in 1995 in Jacksonville while taking pictures for Great Expectations, a dating service. They became friends and attended socials and get-togethers at comedy clubs organized by the dating service.
But love swooped in when Juanita had a singles party at her house and she invited Ronald. They started dating and got married in 1996.
After they were married, Ronald Foley confided in his wife that he was about to leave the singles party but stayed when she served her specialty meal: meatballs.
But despite all the beautiful memories, Juanita mourns the loss.
"I'll miss his kind, quiet personality and his great sense of humor," she said. "He made me laugh."
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Florida woman mourns husband who drowned saving home from Ian flooding