CHICAGO (CBS) — An elderly man died in an early morning house fire on Friday in the East Garfield Park neighborhood.
The fire started around 1:30 a.m. at a two-story house in the 500 block of North Ridgeway Avenue. Much of the first floor was gutted before the fire spread to the upper level of the building.
William “Tooney” Jackson, 83, was home alone at the time, and was trapped in his kitchen. That’s where firefighters found him dead, towards the rear of the building on the first floor.
Jackson was pronounced dead at the scene. Relatives said they’ll remember him as a fun-loving free spirit.
Jackson’s great niece, Tarella Crawford, said his sister also recently died, though she succumbed to natural causes.
Crawford said she hopes her beloved uncle didn’t suffer.
“To have one go like this is devastating,” she said.
As she waited for workers from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office to take his body to the morgue, she focused not on how he died, but on how he lived.
“Uncle Tooney was fun. He was very outgoing, very loving, loved to dance, loved to be the life of the party, loved to have fun,” Crawford said. “He was a great person, and he’s truly going to be missed. So we’re sorry to see him go.”
It was her personal knowledge of how well he lived that had Crawford feeling thankful, despite the day’s irreparable loss.
“He has definitely lived a great life, and we are happy that God gave him to us all of the years that he gave him to us,” Crawford said.
Jackson had a caretaker who was not present when the fire started.
There were no working smoke detectors in the building. The cause of the fire was under investigation.