Memories and pictures are what Kim Smith has left of her husband Staff Sergeant Paul Smith.
"We would call him McGuyver. He fixed our VCR with aluminum foil over a sparkplug...He was just a funny, loving, awesome guy," said Kim Smith, Gold Star Wife.
Paul was a member of the Illinois Army National Guard.
His last mission was in Afghanistan where he died in June of 2009 at the age of 43.
Kim said, "I just couldn't believe it. Something you never want to hear. I couldn't...it was to much."
Staff Sergeant Smith's childhood home is in East Peoria.
He and Kim had been renting it since 2006, but he always dreamed of owning it.
Kim said after his death she knew she had to buy the house.
"Paul left a list of everything he wanted done to the house like his bay window. He picked the siding. He picked the flooring, the wood flooring. He did all that and he said these are his wishes. This is what he wanted and I did everything on that."
Kim said she looked through the phonebook and called contractors to get bids on how much repairs would cost.
She still has the paperwork today.
Kim paid Pitcher Perfect Siding and Windows and Bathrooms Plus over $16,000 each.
A1 Quality Construction Services received over $75,000.
Kim said soon after the work was done problems started to appear.
"...You could just pull areas of the siding off...six months to the time that they finished. I finally got wise and wouldn't give them no more money."
Most of the money went toward work on the basement, kitchen, front deck, back porch, and more.
Kim said the interior windows in the living room weren't finished, there's a tripping hazard going into the dining room, the drywall is sinking in the kitchen where a window used to be, and the basement sits empty.
"He went through the concrete wall...They say the beams aren't holding, they should have gone all the way back but they're not. This is the damage. There's no structure, concrete structure in here."
The list continues from the bathroom to the backyard where Kim won't let her grandchildren play because of this wire which she says is still live.
The Pool and Spa Doctor installed a spa for over $32,000.
After several problems with it, Kim said they refunded her $4,000 and told her they'd bring her a different on, but the space sits empty today.
Kim said she's been fighting this year after year, turning to lawyers and multiple organizations for help only to be turned down.
"I've tried to do everything and I keep trying because it's eventually going to fall apart and I'm not going to have anything and I need it. I want the house."
She said she's reached out to these companies multiple times over the years.
Two years ago she noticed the floor was sinking.
A Gold Star group Kim is part of gave her $2,000 to restructure the basement wall and raise the subfloor to prevent further damage.
"He said, 'Well it's been over 10 years, your house is settling.' No my house isn't settling you went through the wall...After he said the house is settling I just hung up. I wasn't going to get anything out of him."
She said she doesn't want to be labeled a victim because she feels she was taken advantage of for close to $150,000 and she thought she was doing the right thing/
"If I admit what I've done they have to admit what they've done and make me whole. I want to be whole. I want a safe house. I want to enjoy the rest of it with the kids and let Paul know that they it was worth it and I'm sorry...I feel guilty because I didn't do it right and I'm trying to get it right."
The Army is involved now.
Kim said she was told a few steps to take before a decision will be made on how or if they can help her.
She had a bid done for the work and that came in above 100 grand.
"I want to honor Paul the way I thought I was honoring him before and now he's got a house that's not worthy."
While Kim has tried to carry on with the Staff Sergeant's dreams, these projects are a memory she's trying to leave behind.
Some of the businesses Kim worked with are no longer operating.