Unable to escape their burning home, an elderly couple left this world together as the Napa wildfire decimated their neighborhood.
Charles Rippey, 100, and wife Sara, 98, perished Sunday after their caretaker was driven from the fast-moving inferno that has so far killed at least 17 people.
The beloved husband and wife were married in 1942 and were devoted to each other and their extended family of five children, 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
“We know there’s no way they would ever be happy, whoever was the last one,” said their 71-year-old son, as he sifted through the rubble of his parents' Northern California home.
“So they went together, and that’s the way it worked,” he told The Associated Press.
His mother had recently suffered a stroke, he said. His dad apparently was heading toward her bedroom when he was overcome.
“My father certainly wouldn’t have left her,” he said.
Mike’s brother, Chuck, found the couple’s bodies after managing to slip past authorities.
Their parents had celebrated their 75th anniversary last year. They first met in grade school in Wisconsin.
He was nicknamed “Peach” for his childhood chubby cheeks. He served in World War II and later worked for Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. and Norris Industries.
She was a homemaker. They had lived in Napa for the past 35 years.
Their caretaker went to check on the couple but “all the windows just started to explode and (there was) smoke and heat and all that everywhere,” Chuck Rippey told NBC Bay Area.
“She just couldn’t find them.”
The family will not rebuild on the Napa site.
“Without them, it doesn’t mean a thing,” said Mike. “It’s gone. They’re gone.”