Man Stocks Basement 45 Years, Prepares for Worst. When Wife Dies, Does the Incredible Before Bank Takes it All


Sometimes the disasters we prepare for aren’t the ones that strike. Although this survivalist learned that the hard way, he’s still glad he kept his basement stocked all those years.

Joseph Badame of Medford, New Jersey, had spent 45 years preparing for a disaster, with his wife, Phyliss. The architectural engineer had designed their 8,500-square-foot home, which was fully equipped to shelter multiple families.

The basement contained several bunk beds and kerosene-powered refrigerators. They also kept an enormous amount of non-perishable foods.

Badame has said that he and his wife weren’t doing all of this for religious reasons or in fear of an apocalypse. Anticipating an extreme economic downturn, and witnessing violent riots and racial tensions in New Jersey in the late ’60s, they just wanted to be prepared for the worst.

“Phyliss decided that we needed to prepare,” Badame said. But when Phyliss suffered a stroke in 2005 and was left paralyzed, life took an unexpected turn.

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Badame retired from work, and devoted his life to taking care of his wife. She died eight years later, and Badame was left alone and broke.

He had gone into debt paying for his wife’s medical bills, and had defaulted on his mortgage payments. He was utterly crushed the day he received the news that the bank was foreclosing on his home — the one he had spent half a century turning in to a doomsday shelter.

“I was devastated,” Badame said. “There was no reason for me to continue the survival center. I just didn’t have a purpose in life.”

Left to grieve his wife’s death, Badame began to think that the work they had accomplished was all a big waste. But while preparing to sell his belongings at an estate sale, yet another life-changing event took Badame by surprise.

Anthony and his wife, Victoria Barber, who is Puerto Rican, would be providing food for potential buyers at the estate sale. In conversation with Victoria Barber, Badame learned that she was trying to raise money to help feed more than 50 family members in Puerto Rico who were left destitute after recent hurricanes.

Then an idea struck him. Badame knew exactly where to get food for Barber’s family.

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All of Badame’s stockpiled food was shipped out to starving victims in Puerto Rico. Victoria Barber was completely stunned when she saw Badame’s basement, which contained 80 barrels of food that weighed 360 pounds each.

“This is saving their lives,” she said. “My grandmother has nothing right now, she lost it all.”

Victoria Barber, whose father died when she was young, shared that Badame became like a father to her during this experience. Badame, in turn, gained the satisfaction of knowing that his life’s work was incredibly valuable after all.

“I’m tired, old, depressed, feeling like I’m a failure regarding the survival thing,” said Badame, recalling how he first felt when he lost the house. Then Victoria Barber “came along, gave me a shot of adrenaline. I couldn’t believe it.”

A grieving man who feared that he had become a failure, ended up finding the perfect way to provide for those in need. Even when people lose everything and reach the lowest point, unusual miracles can happen.

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Abby Lundstrom is a former contributor to Liftable, a publication of the Western Journal.