(By Nick Schneider) [Order this photo]
Wednesday, the Linton couple will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in bittersweet fashion.
Monday night, much of their two-story home's interior was gutted by a fire that is believed to have been caused by an electrical malfunction, according to Linton Fire Chief Brad Sparks.
(By Nick Schneider) [Order this photo]
"I was about half asleep and I heard a fire alarm. I heard it go beep. It just beeped lightly and it woke me up enough that I smelled smoke," Judy recalled. "I thought the neighbors had a wiener roast or something. You know how the air-conditioner sucks stuff in (to the house)."
Ron was watching the late night news on television in the living room hoping to hear some rain in the forecast for his withering garden.
He noticed that the lights were off in the kitchen and went to check the electrical fuse box.
"That's when I went upstairs and my fire alarm was beginning to beep closer together. He (the couple's son, 48-year-old Robert) was sound asleep. I hollered Robbie you are going to have to get up honey because I think the house is on fire."
By the time Judy and her son got back downstairs, Ron had found the eaves of the house were smoking and they all exited the burning home.
"He said, 'Let's get out of here'," Judy recalled. "Flames were shooting everywhere. This is just so devastating."
Sparks said the interior of the structure is nearly a total loss, but the couple was able to remove some personal property items from the house that did not sustain fire, smoke or water damage.
The fire chief said the blaze started on the front porch area and took about 2 1/2 hours of work by the LFD crew to get under control.
"The guys (fire department) did a really good job," Sparks said. "We chased after it (the fire) for a long while. It was up in the cedar shingle roof. As dry as it's been, it was just like tender. You couldn't get to it. You had to peel the roofing off. We stayed on it until we felt like it was good and safe.
"I hate this for anybody. This is the second structure fire that we've actually had all year. We've been really fortunate. ... In a situation like this, it's just a blessing no one was hurt. That's the main thing."
The Jerrells proudly say their Christian faith isn't shattered by a string of health problems and this fire just two days before their anniversary.
The couple's son has battled kidney cancer and was recently diagnosed with cancer in the hip area.
Ron survived a serious heart attack and open-heart surgery Dec. 20.
In April, Judy's only brother, Wayne Edward Fifer, from Sullivan, died.
Last year, their home was also struck by lightning, which causes some fire damage in their kitchen.
"The devil is really after us," Judy commented. "It's just unbelievable, but I'm still standing on the promises of God. I still believe in my Lord and Savior."
Ron, who operates Ron's Detail Shop, located next to their home, agreed with his wife.
"The thing is, we got out safe," he said. "The fire alarms are actually what saved our lives. I'm a firm believer in them. I will not have a house that does not have fire alarms in it."
Ron said there are a lot of items that can be salvaged from inside the home.
"It just gutted the upstairs," he said in saying he's not sure if the house is structurally sound enough to renovate. "I tell you what, by the time we got out of here, it (the fire) was going."
Judy suffers from diabetes and said she was happy she found her insulin supplies in the home Tuesday morning.
Ron said he'll continue to serve the Lord no matter what.
"In December, they (the doctors) didn't give me much hope. My cardiologist came in after the surgery and he told me, 'You're my miracle man. By rights, you shouldn't be here'."
Judy added, "There is just no words to explain how you feel when you look at your son and you see him in pain and then when you see these flames coming out of the house. We've lived here for 47 years. Our wedding anniversary is tomorrow. I'm going to celebrate it thanking God that we got my son out and we got out."