Mother, daughter perish in house fire

80-year-old woman cared for adult child who was developmentally disabled

February 05, 2003|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Marie Horn devoted her life to caring for her developmentally disabled daughter, Lois. The pair did everything together - taking long walks in the neighborhood, gardening and spending time at a nearby church.

Yesterday morning, the women died in a fire that destroyed the Cape Cod-style brick house in Linthicum where they'd lived for nearly a half-century. Marie Horn was 80; her daughter was 49.

"Everybody said if anyone was a saint, it was my mother," said Arlene Derflinger, 52, Lois Horn's only sister. Their father, Melvin Horn, died in 1988. "They were wonderful people."

Derflinger's daughter, Heather, 22, called her grandmother "the pillar of the family" and said her Aunt Lois was like a second mother.

The Derflingers, who live on nearby Orchard Road, typically ate Sunday dinner at the Horns' Lynvue Road home. Even as an adult, Arlene Derflinger said, she talked with her mother every night to exchange "I love you's." Officials believe the fire began shortly after 1 a.m. in Marie Horn's bedroom.

Firefighters found Marie Horn just inside the front door and her daughter in a rear bedroom on the floor next to her bed, said Division Chief John M. Scholz. Neither had a pulse.

Attempts to revive the two women were unsuccessful, and they were pronounced dead at Harbor Hospital in Baltimore, Scholz said. It took firefighters about a half-hour to put out the blaze.

"We all just stood there in amazement," neighbor Brian Pendleton said. "It feels just awful. ... These are people you converse with, and there's nothing you can do."

Lois Horn sometimes played with the neighborhood children and took walks around the block with them, said Alicia Machado, 12, who lives nearby.

"She was a good friend," Alicia said. "And her mom was a good neighbor."

The Horn family moved into the Lynvue home shortly after it was built in the early 1950s, relatives said.

Over the years, Marie Horn grew a spectacular garden that, according to Arlene Derflinger, was "such a pleasure to her." The yard also includes miniature rosebushes that Lois Horn loved, Derflinger said.

Fire officials estimated damage to the home and its contents at $180,000.

One firefighter, volunteer David Johnson, 19, suffered minor injuries from smoke inhalation, Scholz said.

Investigators had not determined the cause of the fire yesterday, but Scholz said a smoke detector in the house did not appear to be working.

Three people have died in fires in Anne Arundel County so far this year, Scholz said.

Public visitation for Marie and Lois Horn will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at Loudon Park on Wilkens Avenue.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Linthicum Methodist Church, where the women were longtime members of the congregation.

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