Wife Loses Husband Of Nearly 30 Years To House Fire Near Lennox: “He was my life.”

A rural Lennox man is dead following a house fire early Tuesday morning. Authorities say they were called to the home about two miles west of Lennox at around 1 a.m.

“My husband was going to watch the news and come to bed. He never made it,” said Martha Poppenga of rural Lennox.

Poppenga says she fell asleep on Monday night at around 10 p.m. The smell of smoke woke her up about three hours later.

“An ungodly stink. Nothing I have ever smelled before,” said Poppenga.

Poppenga says she could see flames and called 911. She says she could vaguely see her husband Gary Poppenga in the living room. She says she called his name several times, but he never answered. At that point, Poppenga says she needed to get out.

“I went out the door in my nightgown and a blanket that was on the porch. No shoes, no socks, no nothing,” Poppenga said. “The Fire Marshal says he didn’t know how I made it out alive.”

Waiting for the fire department to arrive, Poppenga says she knew. She says she prayed that he died before the fire got to him.

“You can see how black the soot was on the curtain up above,” said Poppenga pointing to the house.

Fire departments from Chancellor, Parker and Lennox responded to the scene. They say the fire was knocked down quickly,
but by the time firefighters reached her husband, it was clear that he was gone.

“He was my life,” Martha said. “You’re best friend?” we asked. “Yeah,” replied Martha crying. That’s the only way I could put it. We had been through a lot together.”

Poppenga says Gary was an avid outdoorsman, but lost his leg a few years ago, and was bound to a wheelchair. Not only did the fire claim her husband, it destroyed his childhood home. He had lived there since he was 5-years-old and she had for 30.

Poppenga said, “I’ve lost my home and all the contents.”

The Fire Marshal found Gary’s wedding ring, but the one that matches Martha’s will likely never be recovered. She says it’s hard to go back inside. The smell is just too overwhelming.

“It took his life. That smell took his life,” Poppenga said.

Authorities believe the cause of Gary Poppenga’s death is likely smoke inhalation. What started the fire is under investigation.

A fund has been set up at Centerville Care & Rehab to help with funeral expenses. The staff will also be having a bake sale Oct. 25. Proceeds will go to the Poppenga family.


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