With his violin, David Ewart touched people with his music. But on his upscale cul-de-sac in Valencia Hills, he touched people with his heart, and neighbors are now returning the kindness.
Ewart, a professional musician who was severely burned in a fire that destroyed his house early Tuesday and badly burned his son and father, is known as the joy and soul of his neighborhood -- the guy who threw an annual holiday party for the block, coached several youth sports teams and went all out with decorations at Halloween because the kids loved it.
So in the wake of the tragic blaze, which is still under investigation, many have felt compelled to assist a man they say was always ready to help and be kind to others.
“He is dearly loved. He is just giving and kind, and would do anything for anybody,” said neighbor Gail Thompson.
Ewart, 48, is in critical but stable condition at the Grossman Burn Center in Sherman Oaks, along with his son, Michael, 15, and father, Hugh, 81, a retired concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony in Portland. David Ewart’s mother, Esther, 77, and other children, Jonathan, 13, and Heather, 11, were also at home at the time of the blaze but escaped without serious injury.
About 200 of Ewart’s friends and neighbors have joined forces to ensure that the family gets whatever help it needs.
Some neighbors are volunteering to provide meals for the family, while others are collecting photos of the Ewart children through the years in order to recapture memories for the family in a scrapbook.
Most of the Ewarts’ own pictures were lost to the flames, neighbors said.
The Valencia Hills Homeowners Assn. is holding a blood donation drive Tuesday, and a bank account has been established for financial contributions.
“That’s just the kind of community this is,” said Leah Thompson, manager of the association. On Wednesday, a corner of her office was already stacked with bags and boxes and donated clothes and toys.
Friends and fellow cul-de-sac residents said it was the least they could do for a neighbor many referred to as “special.”
“He’s a good man,” said Deborah Mann, who lives opposite Ewart and had attended his annual holiday bash a few hours before the fire.
“He had a petting zoo for the kids; Mr. and Mrs. Claus were inside. There was turkey, ham, tri-tip, lamb, sweet potatoes,” Mann recalled.
A few hours later, her daughter was awakened by screams from the Ewart home and the Manns called the authorities. “Now their whole home is devastated.”
“It’s so sad,” said Karen Stein, another neighbor. “I just hope and pray his hands are OK.”
Ewart, who at one time played with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, suffered second- and third-degree burns over 32% of his body -- including his hands, arms, back, chest and face -- according to burn center spokeswoman Debbie Groveman. His son, a first-year lifeguard at his Valencia community clubhouse and a swim team member, was the most seriously injured with burns over 41% of his body. Ewart’s father sustained facial burns and a broken nose after a fall.
Groveman said all three were on respirators and that first surgeries were scheduled for David Ewart and his son Monday. She said the musician would need occupational therapy and that it was too early to determine whether he would be able to play the violin again.
“It’s horrifying,” said Debbi Datz-Pyle, an independent musical contractor who hires Ewart for movie scores and recording sessions. “He’s a top-notch violinist.”
Datz-Pyle said Ewart had played on scores for several Warner Bros. cartoons, and for movies, including “Million Dollar Baby” and “Spider-Man 2.” She had him in mind to work on several upcoming films, including “X-Men 3.”
“But even more than his playing, he is truly a wonderful person,” she said. “He wore his heart on his sleeve. He always wanted to be there for everybody, and we want to be there for him.”
At the Church of the Nazarene in Newhall, where Ewart is an active member, the Rev. Greg Garman said that special prayers of support were being offered for the family.
The pastor recalled how the musician and his son, also a violinist, had in past years funded their own trips to the Amazon jungle in South America, where they performed free while helping to build two churches for an indigenous Indian community.
“They’ve been the first to give, and whenever we’ve needed help, they’ve been vitally involved,” Garman said.
Donations for the Ewart family can be made at: Account No. 8606155136, Wells Fargo Bank, 25850 The Old Road, Stevenson Ranch, CA 91381.
Checks should be made payable to: David Ewart Catastrophe Fund.
Valencia Hills Homeowners Assn., 24060 Oak Vale Drive, Valencia, 91355, will hold a blood drive from 3 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank.
For more information, e-mail Linda Skvarna at Nitta email@example.com.