It had been the Head family home for about 45 years, a welcoming spot in Catonsville where the matriarch devoted a room to creating artwork.
On Monday, the two-story brick dwelling was a place for mourning, as visitors stopped to see the aftermath of a fire late Sunday that claimed the life of 83-year-old Ruth Head and her son John, 61.
"She raised us here," said Steve Head, Ruth Head's youngest son, as he examined the charred home. "I went inside, and it's totally destroyed. All the beautiful furnishings, all the artwork she had is gone."
Firefighters were called to the first block of North Hilltop Road near Frederick Road shortly after 11 p.m. Sunday. Police said a neighbor called 911 after smelling smoke. Both victims were in full cardiac arrest by the time firefighters entered the house. They were taken by ambulances to St. Agnes Hospital and were pronounced dead shortly thereafter, according to the Baltimore County Fire Department.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Steve Head said his mother and brother had dinner with his sister, Jean Holden, earlier in the evening and were taken back home about 9 p.m.
"Something happened, but I don't know how or what caused it," Head said.
Ruth Head and her husband, George, bought the house in 1955. Shortly after, they started a business that would become a fixture along the main stretch of shops in Catonsville. Head Graphics' brown awning is nestled among other Frederick Avenue businesses.
Ruth Head retired from the company several years ago and turned it over to her youngest son. The business employs a half-dozen people and has netted $1 million in annual sales, Steve Head said.
"She was instrumental in building that business up, along with my father," he said. "She was a hell of a businesswoman, she really was."
After George Head's death nine years ago, John Head moved into the family home to help take care of his mother. But Steve Head said his mother needed little assistance, remaining active in her painting, a longtime hobby, and serving at Catonsville United Methodist Church.
"She was retired but she was active," Head said. "She exercised and was careful with her diet. She wouldn't eat certain things. She tried to do her best to stay healthy."