- Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 18:14
- Published on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 18:14
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A single vase of flowers sits among the ruins of the late Robert Dudleys' home after it was destroyed by fire on Christmas Eve. The Arm chair is where Dudley was believed to be sitting when the fire took his life that night.
Shortly after 8:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve when children were being warned to tuck into bed for Santa’s arrival a tragic call came out to Rescue Station 1 and Engine Company 1.
A trailer fire on Old Road behind the Food Lion Shopping Center in Colonial Beach was reported. Witnesses reported hearing one explosion followed by another. The trailer was fully engulfed by the time Rescue and Fire Personal reached the single wide trailer.
The last call came out over the scanner reporting that the occupant was located in the structure, “it’s going to be a DOA,” said the person on the radio.
The residents on Old Road make up a tight nit close community. Family, friends and neighbors are very private and are leery about sharing personal information.
The victim of the fire was Robert Dudley. His neighbors and friends described him as a caring man who would give you the shirt off his back. He was always friendly and jovial. Robert was in his 60’s and had just left his neighbor/cousin's house next door. A relative, Cindy, said Robert and her mother had just been visiting. They had a friendly exchange over who would use her mother’s favorite roasting pan for Christmas dinner. Robert sat talking with the family for a few minutes before leaving to go home around 7:30.
Roughly 20 minutes after Robert's departure, Cindy’s son Jeffrey went outside for something and came back in the house saying he smelled smoke coming from Roberts trailer. When Cindy and the others came out, they could see smoke. Jeffrey attempted to enter the trailer. When he flung open the door a rush of flames shot out preventing Jeffrey from entering the home. Cindy believes the smoke had overtaken Robert before the flames could.
By the time the fire department arrived, the trailer was fully engulfed. Neighbors and relatives were left speechless as they watched firefighters put out the flames.
“It’s one thing when a person is sick but when you lose someone so quick it leaves a mark on you,” said Cindy. The family said it would be easier to cope with if they could clean up the trailer to put the bad memories behind them.
Cindy’s mother, who did not wish to be named, said that the funeral service will be on her birthday this Wednesday.
Outside there is a large copper-colored furry dog named Dino who belongs to Cindy and her family. Cindy said Dino was great friends with Robert. “He walked over there and sniffed the chair he used to sit in and just sat there for a while. He knows he’s gone and he misses him.” said Cindy.
Another friend who had stopped by, Saphonia, recalls first meeting Robert when she was just a young girl. Saphonia and Cindy laughed, while holding back tears as they recalled Roberts's friendship with Ed, another "jolly fella" who died a few years back. “The Ed pool,” as they were referred to, was a group of friends who palled around. “Robert was the last of 'em,” said Cindy. “I remember Ed told Robert one day, ‘if you don’t stop drinking, you're gonna be gone’. Robert said, ‘Ed, you gonna go before I do,’ and Ed left before Robert.”
Cindy laughed at the thought of Ed's response when he saw Robert in heaven, “I bet you Ed said, 'Robert you done came on up here.' ”
One thing is for sure Robert will be missed by everyone but the stories of his life will live on for generations to come in his neighborhood.