Veteran with terminal cancer receives free ramp

John Biermaker
Volunteers build a wooden ramp for John Biermaker. (June 20, 2017)


BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Exactly one week after 24 Hour News 8 told his story, Vietnam War veteran John Biermaker is finally getting what he has so desperately needed: a handicap-accessible ramp outside his Byron Township home.

Biermaker suffers from stage 4 lung cancer and doesn’t have long to live. He uses a wheelchair and is unable to get in and out of his home without help.

“I just want to be able to get out of my house and enjoy the world — what I’ve got left of it,” Biermaker told 24 Hour News 8 last week. “I’ve got 11 kids and 20-something grandkids, and I can’t go see ’em. I can’t do nothing.”

His final wish seemed like a simple one: a wheelchair ramp built outside his home.

But issues with Cutler Estates, the mobile home park where he and his wife live, over who could build the ramp — and what it had to be made out of — delayed the process for months.

“My life is limited. And whoever’s holding this up ain’t helping me,” Biermaker said last week.

But after 24 Hour News 8 aired Biermaker’s story, local veteran advocacy groups got wind of his predicament. Those groups — including Hometown Battles, West Michigan Veterans Ranch, West Michigan Veterans Assistance Program, and Inspiring Our Heroes — raised thousands of dollars for materials and called a local contractor, who agreed to build the wooden ramp for free.

“I think he’s deserving of it, being a veteran. I think they all need it. They all need that helping hand,” Ken Bunn, who’s company is helping to build the ramp, told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday.

Biermaker wasn’t home Tuesday to watch the work happen. He and his wife were in Ann Arbor for the day at a doctor’s appointment. But some of Biermaker’s other family members were at his house to thank the people who volunteered their time.

“I’m thankful that people can still come together. It gives other people hope that there’s still a little bit of goodness,” Molly Kronberg, Biermaker’s niece, told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday.

Exactly how long John Biermaker has left is unknown. But now, during his final days, he will get to enjoy the little things: time outside with family and friends.

“Enjoy his moments. That’s all he wants to do,” Kronberg said.

Afternoon rain hampered the builders’ progress on Tuesday, but they hope to have the ramp finished by Wednesday.