Kassandria McCoy was asleep when her cousin called around 11 p.m. Feb. 11. She picked up the phone, sensing something must be wrong.
“What’s Grandma’s address?” McCoy recalled her cousin asking.
Her cousin said she saw on the TV news that a house on Benson Road outside Garner had caught fire and it looked similar to where their grandmother, Ida McCoy, 88, lived.
When Kassandria McCoy pulled out her iPad and pulled up the news, she saw her grandmother’s house, at 3412 Benson Road, in flames and the fire department trying to put them out.
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“It was like a dream,” she said. “Like it wasn’t real. It was like watching a news flash of someone else’s life. When I saw it, it was just devastating.”
Kassandria McCoy, who lives in Fuquay-Varina, and her children raced to her grandmother’s house, where they learned that firefighters had found Ida McCoy dead in the kitchen of the house she had lived in for 44 years. She lived the last fourty alone after the death of her husband.
A churchgoing woman
Kassandria McCoy said she was raised by her grandmother in that house. Originally from Clinton, Ida McCoy had four children and was a great-great grandmother. She had more than 200 descendents, Kassandria McCoy said.
“She always loved to go to church,” she said. “So we had to go to church every Sunday.”
Ida McCoy attended St. Peter’s Church in Holly Springs, which has a membership of a little more than 100 people.
“She was a very stern lady, and she wanted you to go to school,” Kassandria McCoy said. “She tried to keep all of us from going down the wrong direction.”
She said her grandmother was the sweetest person in the world and loved to make people laugh. A homemaker, she loved to cook and would make sweet potato pie and biscuits for everyone who visited.
Fried chicken and chicken and dumplings were her favorite dishes.
Grady McKey, who has been pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Holly Springs for 35 years, said Ida McCoy was considered one of the mothers of the church. They called her “Mother McCoy.”
“Anybody she came in contact with, they loved her ways,” McKey said. “They loved the way she carried herself. She gave you good advice, helped teach you right. She loved to help.”
He said she even helped him in times of need. When he was at work and his wife was at school, McCoy helped look after his children.
“She was a faithful member of the church and anything you would ask, she would do,” he said. “She was a good woman and I’m going to miss her.”
Marvin Cooper, 53, a deacon of the church, said he has known her for 30 years. He said when he first came to the church 30 years ago she encouraged him to preach the gospel, which he did. He said he was devasted when he found out she died.
“She was like part of your family,” Cooper said. “She always there and ready to cook for everybody. She was always ready to serve. She wouldn’t let you leave her house without giving you something to eat.
“She would say ‘come on in there goes my baby.’ It made me feel like I had a second mom.”
Kassandria McCoy said she saw her grandmother the day she died and said she hadn’t been feeling well. She had been to the doctor because she recently had cataract surgery.
McCoy said the family has taken the death very hard and some are still in disbelief.
“Most of them are devastated and couldn’t believe it,” she said. “That is something that you think wouldn’t happen to her. She was very cautious and definitely in her right mind.”
Fire fatalities do not happen often in Wake County. According to statistics from the Wake County Fire Marshall’s office, in 2013 there was only one fire fatality. In 2014, there were two. So far this year as of Feb. 20, there have been three fire fatalities in Wake County, including McCoy’s.
The fire that killed McCoy was reported at 10:29 p.m. by a man who saw it as he was driving by. The man tried to open the door of the burning house but couldn’t.
“The fire was already in the roof area, and he couldn’t enter the house,” Garner Fire Chief Matthew Poole said. “The house was fully involved, basically.”
Poole said Ida McCoy was not burned and likely died of smoke inhalation. He said he couldn’t comment on the cause of the fire but said investigators are not treating it as suspicious.
Deputy Wake Fire Marshall Donel Braxton, who is in charge of the investigation, declined to comment on the case.
Braxton said house fires tend to happen more often in the winter when people are trying to stay warm. He said some result when people try to warm their homes with their stoves and ovens or with portable electric or kerosene heaters.
Braxton said it’s important that people follow the manufacturer’s directions on any portable heating device.
According to county property records, Ida McCoy’s home was built in 1920 and did not have central heating or air conditioning.
McCoy’s funeral will be Saturday at Turner Memorial Baptist Church in Garner, starting at 2 p.m.