2017-02-16 / Front Page

Fire kills 2, levels home

Card seat empty
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

INVESTIGATORS FROM the State Fire Marshal’s office were scheduled to be in Northport today or Friday to investigate the cause of a fire which killed two people Saturday. INVESTIGATORS FROM the State Fire Marshal’s office were scheduled to be in Northport today or Friday to investigate the cause of a fire which killed two people Saturday. There’ll be an empty chair the next time Ruth Devrou sits down to play cards.

Her sister-in-law and card partner Shirley Devrou, 73, was one of two victims who died in an early-morning fire Saturday in Northport.

“She was a very giving person. She’d give you the shirt off her back,” said Devrou, who played cards with her sister-in-law and her own sister, Donna Foster, a couple of times a week. “That’s why she had someone living with her.”

The other fire victim, Willie Jones, 43, had been renting a room in Devrou’s trailer home, located at 838 N. Mill St., directly across the street from the Leelanau Township firehall.

Jones had worked as a cook in local restaurants for the past several years.

“He was a fun guy,” said Dave Waskiewicz, owner of Knot Just a Bar in Omena, where Jones had worked as a line cook. “He liked hanging out with friends and listening to music. He cared deeply about others.”

Jones had reportedly been out with a group of friends Friday evening in Northport before heading home.

Those friends and other members of the community gathered last night at the Knot to remember Jones and pass the hat to help send his remains back to his family in Florida.

Sheriff Mike Borkovich couldn’t officially confirm the identity of the fire victims, but they are assumed to be the occupants of the home.

Members of the night crew at the Leelanau Township Fire Department called the fire in to the county dispatch center at 2:33 a.m.

“They heard a noise, saw that it was light outside, and looked out the window to see the fire across the street,” said Hugh Cook, Leelanau Township fire chief.

Crews responded to the structure, which by that time was fully engulfed.

“It wasn’t until about 25 minutes later that they saw a car in the garage and learned someone was there,” Cook said.

The remains of the victims, found in their bedrooms, were sent to Kalamazoo for autopsy.

Initial findings are that both were alive at the time of the fire and no foul play is suspected, the Sheriff said.

A fire investigator from the Michigan State Police was expected to be on the scene today or tomorrow to determine the cause of the fire.

The home was heated with a fuel oil furnace and, according to Devrou, no space heaters were in use.

Shirley Devrou moved to Northport from the Grand Rapids area about 15 years ago after the death of her husband, Dick.

While in Grand Rapids she worked for Lescoa, an auto parts manufacturing company. She has two children— a son and daughter — living in the Grand Rapids area. She attended West Side Community Church in Solon Township.

The Devrou sisters-in-law and Ruth Devrou’s sister, Donna, spent a lot of time together.

“If someone was going somewhere, it was the three of us,” Devrou said. The threesome had planned on getting together to play cards later in the day Saturday.

“Donna called Saturday and said she had a nice pot of soup ready for us,” Devrou said. “I told her, ‘I don’t think we’ll be eating soup today.’”

Jones will also be missed.

“It breaks my heart to know he used to work for us,” said Kathy Walraven, coowner of Tucker’s in Northport. “I used to see him riding around on his Moped. Now I won’t be able to say ‘hi’.”

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