STAMFORD, CT (PIX11)—Despite the tragic nature of the deaths of three children and their grandparents in the Christmas Day fire in the children's Stamford home, they may be best honored by recounting the remarkable lives they led.
The grandmother, Pauline Johnson, 69, was an electrical contractor who so successful in a field in which it was highly unusual to find women, that nearly 30 years ago she bought John Waters, Inc., a large heating and air conditioning company in Louisville, Kentucky, where she and her husband, Lomer Johnson, 71, had raised their daughter, Madonna Badger.
Pauline Johnson sold her business when she and Lomer Johnson decided to move from Louisville to Connecticut five years ago to be near their daughter, who had become a prominent ad executive daughter, and near their granddaughters. Once in the Tri State, the grandfather got his dream job.
"[There's] a sense of loss for everybody," veteran Saks Fifth Avenue doorman Heyward Bond told PIX11 News about the loss of Lomer Johnson. He was the high-end department store's first Santa Claus. "Everybody liked him," Bond said. "Especially kids. All the kids liked him."
Lomer Johnson made appearances all over the Tri State as Santa, and so badly wanted to fulfill the role that he stopped shaving as soon as he retired from the job where he had spent most of his career -- as safety director at the Brown-Forman Corp. of Louisville. The Fortune 1000 company is the maker of a variety of well-known liquors, including Jack Daniels whiskey.
Ironically, the man who went on to be known as The Real Santa was in charge, among other duties, of directing fire drills at the Brown-Forman manufacturing plant. Lormer Johnson ended up dying at his daughter's home, inches away from one of his granddaughters, whom he was trying unsuccessfully to get out of the house as it erupted into an inferno.
Now, at the pile of rubble that is all that remains of the home, a steady stream of residents stop by to lay flowers, stuffed animals, and to look at the home site, which was largely cleared out after workers demolished the home due to its structural weakness.
One of the people paying respects was Aurelio Naranjo, who showed up with his family. He had been part of the work crew that was renovating the three-storey mansion on Shippan Avenue, a hundred yards from a Long Island Sound beach.
"[They were] normal kids, they do homework, they play around," Naranjo said about the three girls who perished, Lily Badger, 10, and her 7 year-old twin sisters, Sarah and Grace. He'd come to know the girls and their mother over weeks of working on their home.
"When I find out [about the deaths], the only thing I could say was 'Think about my kid,'" Naranjo said as he put his arm around his daughter, whom he'd brought to see the scene of the deaths of the girls he knew.
All three girls attended the Windward School in White Plains, New York, a campus dedicated to helping childrend with language learning disabilities. The school's headmaster, Dr. John J. Russell, has said that grief counselors will be on hand at the school of 220 students when classes resume next Tuesday.
PIX11 News has also learned that some parents at the school have hired their own counselors to help children at the small school cope with the loss of three students known to most of the student body.