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On Aug. 9, 2020, Rachael Ray’s home in Lake Luzerne, New York, was reduced to ashes in a blaze that began in a chimney and quickly consumed the structure. Ray and her husband, John Cusimano, who’d been filming her syndicated series there during the pandemic, were at home when a passing neighbor alerted them that their roof was on fire. Quickly evacuating, they saw a lifetime’s worth of memories go up in smoke.
“We lost a huge part of the physical evidence that we exist, all of the things we had created — paintings and pictures and music, plus everything we were gifted over the years or collected together as a couple; paintings that were made for us and letters that were written to us,” says Ray.
“My mom is technically blind now, she’s 87, and I had decades of letters and cards from her. That was the first thing that hit me: ‘Oh my God, I lost those things.’ Not the stuff, but the things that we all hold on to that are our nostalgia and our personal history. That house was our home for 15 years. And it held everything of our 50-plus years, all of my husband’s music charts for decades of work, every notebook I’ve written since I was a little girl.”
The couple continued to film the show from their neighboring guesthouse as they set about rebuilding. Their main house “is empty now,” adds Ray.
“But we hope it will be filled pretty soon. It is rebuilt. It was a hole in the ground. It was taken down to the foundation basement. When I was shooting the beginning of season 15, I was watching — from out of the window of what used to be our guesthouse for friends — them truck away our lives. I would watch the trucks go by all day long for weeks; it took weeks for them just to clear what was left. But I’m also excited for people to see the home rebuilt.” .
This story first appeared in the Sept. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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