Elderly Anglican Priest Tried to Shield His Wife From Flames as They Died in Massive Brush Fire
Gladys McKaig, 90, was in failing health, but her 81-year-old husband, Byron, was her constant companion and protector.
And it remained so even as they lay dying.
The couple perished in the massive Erskine Fire that has devoured more than 46,000 acres in California and destroyed more than 200 buildings.
Their bodies were found outside the smoldering remains of their home, sprawled against a corner of their fence, according to KERO-TV.
“He was like on top of her, and they were together, like he was blocking her from the fire,” neighbor Bill Johnson told the Los Angeles Times. “It made me sick because immediately I saw and knew exactly what had happened – that they were alive and ran out of this burning inferno and got stuck, and that was where they ended.
“I thought it was terrible for those people to go like that. Just horrible. They didn’t deserve it,” he said.
He was an Anglican priest who married the church organist in July 1984. He had come to the Lake Isabella area in the early 1980s after a divorce.
Gladys was a deeply religious woman with a fierce love of music, as was her husband. They were a "perfect match," daughter Susan McKaig told the Bakersfield Californian.
“They were each other’s half,” she said. “They loved each other very much and the family [is] taking comfort from the fact that they passed together."
The couple had two other grown daughters.
He had retired from his pastoral duties eight years ago, but was still active in the church.
"It was beautiful, his devotion to her," said Bishop Eric Menees of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin. "He cared for her up until their very last seconds."