Among the tragic stories to emerge from the California wildfires is the deaths of a couple who had been married for 75 years.
Charles Rippey, 100, and his wife, Sara, 98, were among the 17 people who died when smoke and raging wildfires overtook them inside of their home on Sunday, according to The Associated Press.
The home was mostly destroyed in the blaze, with only a few items remaining. The New York Times reported that a caregiver had been at the couple’s house on Sunday and had cooked them dinner hours before their deaths.
When the fire started, the worker tried to rescue the couple as they slept; she was reportedly able to get Sara into a wheelchair before rushing to Charles’ room when the roof caved in.
Some reports indicate that Charles appeared to be on his way to his wife’s bedroom when he died.
“[The home care worker] went down to get my father and all the windows started to explode and (there was) smoke and heat and all that everywhere,” son Chuck Rippey said. “She just couldn’t find them.”
The AP went on to explain that the couple, who met in grade school in Wisconsin, had been together for nearly eight decades.
Charles and Sara both went to the University of Wisconsin before marrying in 1942. Charles later went on to serve as a U.S. Army engineer and worked at Firestone tire company.
Though their deaths are tragic, their son, Mike Rippey, 71, said that neither parent would have been happy alone.
“We knew there’s no way they would ever be happy, whoever was the last one,” he told the AP. “So they went together, and that’s the way it worked.”
In addition to the 17 reported deaths, at least 185 people were injured in the fires and more than 300 were reported missing in Sonoma County alone, KNTV-TV reported.