The remains of a home destroyed by a wildfire in Napa, California
A couple aged 98 and 100 who had been together for more than 75 years died together after their house was swallowed up by the fast-moving wildfires sweeping through California’s Napa valley region.
Sara and Charles Rippey first met as elementary school students in the 1920s and celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary in March this year, surrounded by their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The remains of the couple were discovered on Monday morning in the charred ruins of their home near the Silverado golf course, where they had lived for almost 40 years.
A carer tried to rescue them as the flames raced closer, the New York Times reports, but was forced to flee when the roof began to cave in.
There have been 17 confirmed deaths so far as a result of the fires, and “authorities are expecting other older people to be among the dead,” says The Guardian.
The couple’s son, Mike, told reporters that he and his brother Chuck had found their father’s body close to that of his mother, who had been paralysed by a stroke five years ago.
“We found him halfway to her room,” he said. “There was no way he was gonna leave her.”
The pair met as children in their hometown of Hartford, Wisconsin and married in March 1942 after both attending the University of Wisconsin.
— Santa Maria Times (@SantaMariaTimes) October 11, 2017
During the Second World War, Charles served for four years in Europe and North Africa as an officer in the engineering corps. After the war, he worked as an engineer for the Firestone tire company, while Sara kept house and raised the couple’s five children.
The Rippeys moved to Napa in the 1980s, where they enjoyed a relaxed retirement lifestyle of tennis, bridge, golf and dinners with their children and grandchildren. “It was a great life and they were happy right up until the last minute,” Mike told ABC News.
He added that the circumstances of his parents’ deaths were bittersweet.
“They just couldn’t be without each other. The fact that they went together is probably what they would have wanted,” he said.