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Perspective

Safe at home: Sutherland Springs-area couple using pandemic to restore past

LA VERNIA - Among the folks I’ve stayed in touch with since writing a book about the 2017 mass shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs are Robin and Keith Muschalek, a sort-of-retired couple who live in La Vernia but spend much of their time restoring a magnificent, old mansion a few miles north of nearby Sutherland Springs. I started to say they’re among the happiest people I know, but that sounds a bit shallow in these grave pandemic times. Maybe it’s more accurate to say they’re among the most contented people I know. They’re doing exactly what they want to do.

Keith, who grew up in Pasadena, is a retired Army colonel with a puckish sense of humor who dabbles in real estate. Robin, his slightly more restrained and unfailingly pleasant partner, is a former teacher who as a youngster spent time in upstate New York. If the Muschaleks are not volunteering at the Wilson County Historical Society in Floresville or at the Sutherland Springs Historical Museum, it seems they’re happily - oops, contentedly - restoring the Polley Mansion and grounds at all hours of the day and night (unless Keith happens to be taking apart and reassembling the dark-blue ’64 Ford Mustang he’s restoring in the barn).

I hadn’t seen the Muschaleks in about a year when Keith called a few days ago to tell me about a 140-year-old bank safe they had just acquired. He thought I might like to see it. I had never thought much about bank safes, but it sounded interesting.

In the year or so since I had seen them, Keith and Robin had gotten certified as Master Gardeners and had transformed the mansion grounds into a blooming butterfly heaven. They also had restored the original two-story back porch; an upstairs door that opened into thin air was an obvious clue that the...

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