82-year-old woman found dead in house fire ‘really just loved life’

03/22/2014 1:10 PM

03/22/2014 1:11 PM

An 82-year-old woman whose body firefighters found early Saturday after a fire broke out in her home loved life and her puppies, say those who knew her best.

Eunice Middlebrook, 82, was found in her home in the 3600 block of South Hughes Avenue at about 5 a.m., shortly after the fire was reported at the small wood-frame home.

Heavy fire near the front door and locked burglar bars briefly kept firefighters from entering, said Tim Hardeman, a Fire Department spokesman.

Hardeman said no working smoke detectors were found in the home.

“It’s a sad situation with a tragic outcome,” he said Saturday night. “ We want to emphasize to people to have at least one working detector in their homes, even though that is not up to residential code.”

He said the cause of the fire had not been determined. The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office had not released a cause of death as of Saturday night.

Saturday evening, Middlebrook’s family and friends gathered in front of the house to collect what was left inside after they said looters were found in the home.

Middlebrook’s daughter Gwendolyn Simmons was gathering the items to take to her home, and she had plenty of help. As the group loaded cars, passers-by and neighbors looked at the blackened, partially collapsed roof.

“My mother really just loved life,” Simmons said after a chuckle. “She was spunky. Outgoing. Very independent and always was.”

Simmons said her mother had lived in the neighborhood for at least 30 years and was a retired employee of Dickies clothing company. She had also worked in home healthcare and took a role in caring for others.

“She was a sweetheart and a grandma figure for everyone she knew,” family friend Cynthia Keeton said.

Middlebrook’s three small puppies ran and jumped around the front lawn, digging near the trees and attempting to sneak toward the rubble. Simmons smiled and recounted her mother’s love for the pups.

“She really loved her dogs,” she said. “Just look at them — they loved her, too.”

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