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Alone at age 93, Naples woman forced to deal with Ian's aftermath

Kate Payne
Incredibly, there doesn't seem to be any damage on the inside of Marion Ulliana's home -- at least for now. She may discover more extensive damage when it rains.

Many of Southwest Florida’s elderly residents are facing the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on their own. With family out of state and spouses long since passed, for many, cleaning up and rebuilding will be even more of a challenge.

There’s a blue tarp on the roof of Marion Ulliana’s manufactured home in Naples – but she’s not sure who put it there. The 93-year-old has lived alone since her husband Philip died in 2020.

Kate Payne
Marion Ulliana, 93, has lived alone since her husband Philip died in 2020. Like many of South Florida's elderly residents, she's facing the aftermath of Hurricane Ian largely on her own.

The outside of her home in the 55+ community of Landmark Estates looks like an open wound – the porch and laundry room were blown off of the house. Vinyl siding, sheets of tin and clumps of insulation are strewn across her lawn.

Thankfully, Ulliana was staying with a friend when the storm hit.

“I came home the next day and it’s a nightmare,” she said.

Incredibly, the inside of her home looks immaculate – at least for now. Oil paintings of her children Karen and Robert hang on the wall. Cocktail glasses from her bridal shower sit in a kitchen cabinet, unbroken.

But the blue tarp on her roof can only do so much – she may discover even more damage once it starts to rain.

Kate Payne
Marion Ulliana says more than anything, she was worried that Hurricane Ian would destroy the urns containing the ashes of her husband and son. She stashed them in her dresser before evacuating her manufactured home in Naples.

More than anything, Ulliana was worried the storm would destroy the ceramic urns holding the ashes of her husband and her son.

“I had wrapped those up and in towels and put them in my dresser so nothing happened to them,” Ulliana said. “I know it sounds crazy but you do talk to them. Don’t get any answers but you talk!”

They bought this house back in 1987, moving down from New Jersey to soak up the sun and play shuffleboard. But now it’s just Marion.

“I'd rather not be here. I'd rather be wherever they are,” she said of her husband and son. “We don't have that choice. So I just have the urns with the flowers.”

Ulliana says she has no family left in Southwest Florida. Neighbors and staff from the community’s management office have been coming by to help. Still, she’s largely on her own.

“I don’t know that many people, she said. “It’s very hard being alone. When you're old it's not easy. Thank God I'm still able to drive. But it's difficult.”

Ulliana says her daughter should be able to help handle the insurance claims and the reconstruction, once she comes down from Massachusetts.

Kate Payne is education writer for WLRN, Miami