Several months after celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary, a 100-year-old World War II veteran and his 98-year-old wife died together in Napa Valley on Oct. 8 when a wildfire hit their home, leaving them unable to escape in time.
Charles and Sara Rippey were killed in the California wildfire, as they were unable to get out of their house before the fire swept into their home.
The couple’s granddaughter, Ruby Gibney, said her grandparents are “loved and missed.”
“The only thing worse would have been if one survived without the other,” Gibney told KTVU.
Their son, Mike Rippey, said the pair couldn’t live without one another.
“We kids would always talk about what it would be like if one of them died and the other was still alive,” Mike Rippey said. “They just couldn’t be without each other. The fact that they went together is probably what they would have wanted.”
More than 40 people have been killed and thousands of structures, including homes and schools, have been destroyed in the California wildfires this month.
The couple’s caregiver tried to rescue the pair, who were sleeping at the time, and managed to get Sara Rippey into a wheelchair, but the roof was caving in and time to escape was running out.
“The caregiver called me and said that there was fire everywhere,” the couple’s other son, Chuck Rippey, told NBC Bay Area. “I said just get those guys out on the street, and before she knew it, the roof was caving in and all that, so it was very fast. Very fast.”
Chuck Rippey said he found his parents’ remains next to each other, and his father nearly made it to his wife’s side before succumbing to the smoke and heat.
Sara and Charles Rippey met each other in grade school and both went on to graduate from the University of Wisconsin. The pair married in March 1942.
Charles Rippey graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1939 and served in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II, the Napa Valley Register reported. Charles worked as an engineer for Firestone Tire and Rubber Company while Sara took care of the family.