Fire destroys GA home, but signed Elvis portrait survives - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Fire destroys GA home, but signed Elvis portrait survives

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Joel Withrow, known as Cowboy, and his friend, Vivian, stand in front of Cowboy's home with the signed Elvis painting after fire destroyed virtually everything. Joel Withrow, known as Cowboy, and his friend, Vivian, stand in front of Cowboy's home with the signed Elvis painting after fire destroyed virtually everything.

FANNIN COUNTY, GA (WRCB) - A North Georgia man revisited his burned home Thursday in Fannin County.

A heater sparked the fire that destroyed his home. But for Joel Withrow, it wasn't what he lost in the fire, it was what he saved.

Withrow's friends call him Cowboy. He's a simple man. By talking with him, you wouldn't know he's standing in the rubble of his home. He estimates it was in his family for almost 100 years.

"I figured out the house was burning but by the time I got over here, it was too late," he said.

There was no saving the home Cowboy shared with his friend Vivian.

"Still flames. I tried to unplug the water hose but I see flames coming out the door so I canceled that out," he said.

The fire took everything they owned. Or just about. Beneath the charred wood and pile of ashes, something caught Cowboy's eye: his signed portrait of Elvis Presley.

"She looked down and said, look here's a picture of Elvis that survived," he said. "Well my heart sunk."

The portrait was once mint condition. Now it has charred edges and slight water damage. Still it stays sentimentally strong.

"I had probably a million dollars worth of Elvis memorabilia handed down from Elvis' bodyguard," he said.

But Cowboy said he knew Elvis before he was even famous.

"Elvis was a truck driver. I believe for Precision Tool Company. And he would drive from Memphis to Asheville," he said.

Cowboy said he and Elvis would meet for lunch when Elvis drove through town. He said it's those memories that make this surviving portrait so special.

"My house and stuff I can replace but my Elvis stuff I can't you know?" he said.

Cowboy doesn't have insurance on his home. Paul and Jacquie Jessen are fellow Elvis fans in town and are holding a benefit concert January 18 for Cowboy. The concert will include Elvis Tribute Acts and they say all proceeds will go to rebuilding a home for Cowboy. Click here to learn more.

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