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Clinton family perseveres through two unthinkable tragedies in less than a year

Katlyn Chrislaw’s husband was killed in August. On Monday, her home was destroyed in a fire
Published: May. 6, 2021 at 11:33 AM CDT|Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 6:07 PM CDT
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CLINTON, Wis. (WMTV) -A woman in Clinton has experienced the unthinkable-- two separate life-shattering tragedies in less than a year. Her husband was killed last year in a motorcycle crash and earlier this week, her home was destroyed in a fire. Her story is one of pain and perseverance.

On Monday afternoon, Katlyn Chrislaw received a phone call from her mother-in-law Elaine telling her that her home was on fire.

“I looked out and seen smoke coming out of the kitchen window, so I yelled the trailer is on fire,” said Steve Chrislaw, Katlyn’s father-in-law.

This debris pile is all that's left after the fire on Monday
This debris pile is all that's left after the fire on Monday(Tim Elliott)

Steve and Elaine live on the same property as Katlyn out in the country on Larsen Road in Clinton. Steve scrambled to put out the fire, but the flames were out of control.

“I wasn’t going to go in. I knew it was too late,” said Steve.

No one was hurt but Katlyn lost everything in the fire, including all of her possessions. After sifting through the debris – like finding a needle in a haystack –a family member found two rings.

“My aunt Dee found both the rings,” said Katlyn. “She says ‘I found a ring; I found another ring!’ She didn’t know what they were for,”

A class ring and a wedding ring belonging to her late husband James were both found in the...
A class ring and a wedding ring belonging to her late husband James were both found in the charred debris(Tim Elliott)

The rings were a special find. One was a class ring and the other a wedding ring that belonged to Katlyn’s late husband, James.

James Chrislaw was tragically killed in a motorcycle crash in August of last year.

“I saw the ambulances go by because it was right around the corner,” Katlyn says recalling the day James was killed. “I just knew in my heart that something happened,”

James was just 31-years-old when he died.

James Chrislaw is pictured here with his two sons
James Chrislaw is pictured here with his two sons(Katlyn Chrislaw)

“He’s the guy if you call him, he’d be willing to help you, no matter what,” said Katlyn.

“He was fun-loving, outgoing guy,” said his father, Steve. “Yes, a hard worker, had lots of friends,” added James’ mom Elaine.

Since James’ death, Katlyn and their 7-year-old son Jaxson have been taking each day as it comes.

“He does actually really well,” Katlyn said of her son. “He’s really strong. He’s like his daddy, his daddy is really strong,”

With this latest tragedy, Katlyn says she feels defeated.

“It was finally starting to look up and then this happened,” she said. “So, I was finally starting to move forward with my life and now I feel like I’m 10 steps back,”

She’s now determined to keep moving forward – with her son by her side.

“He (Jaxson) looks just like him (James), acts just like him, he’s stubborn just like him,” Katlyn said with a laugh.

“We just got to get the mess cleaned up and move on,” Steve said. Steve and Elaine used to live in the home that burned down. They raised their family there before moving into a home next door. “It’s just stuff, it sounds crazy but it’s just stuff,”

Katlyn is holding on tight to the now black-charred rings that belonged to James. She doesn’t plan on cleaning them. They’ll now serve as a reminder of her love for her husband who was taken far too soon.

The Chrislaws also lost several family pets in the fire. Dogs Mac and Copper didn’t make it out. Cats Ryder, Marshall, and Oreo were also killed. Pistol the cat survived.

Katlyn says she doesn’t know what caused the fire, but believes it started in the kitchen. She’s thankful she and Jaxson weren’t home when the fire broke out.

There is a GoFundMe page set up for Katlyn and Jaxson. If you’d like to donate, click here.

Dogs Mac and Copper along with three cats, Oreo, Ryder, and Marshall all didn't make it out of...
Dogs Mac and Copper along with three cats, Oreo, Ryder, and Marshall all didn't make it out of the fire(Katlyn Chrislaw)

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