250 mourners remember Vermont boys lost in Christmas fire
By JESSIE HALLADAY THE (LOUISVILLE) COURIER-JOURNAL | December 30,2009
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Deanna Bailey wrapped her arms around Harrods Creek Fire Chief Chris Aponte — and then one-by-one hugged each of the firefighters who came to St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church Tuesday to honor the two sons she lost in a house fire on Christmas Day.
Twelve-year-old Solon Bailey and 10-year-old William Bailey, known as Liam, died Friday after a fire broke out in their grandparents' Glenview home about 4:30 a.m. The boys had come from Barre with their parents, Deanna and Chris Bailey, to spend Christmas with their grandparents, Cathy and Irving W. Bailey II.
Irving and Cathy Bailey were injured in the fire and taken to University Hospital before being released Saturday. Deanna and Chris Bailey, and the boys' uncle, John Receveur, were able to get out of the house unharmed.
Arson investigators spent Tuesday at the scene of the fire, trying to determine the cause. Heavy machinery had to be brought in to excavate the $1.1 million home, which had collapsed from the extensive damage.
The roughly 250 mourners included many of those from the Harrods Creek, St. Matthews, Lyndon and Worthington fire departments who battled the fire on Longview Lane but could not get to the boys who were in a second-story bedroom. It took 45 firefighters to put out the blaze.
"Our guys are hurting," said Aponte, who described the Longview fire fight as one of the worst experiences of his life. He said he and the other firefighters attended the funeral to show their support for the family — and he was moved by the hug from Deanna Bailey.
"It was a true, powerful embrace, and it was a loving one," Aponte said.
During the service, family members spoke of Solon Bailey as a budding pianist who had fallen in love with the instrument at age 6. His Vermont piano teacher came to the service to play some of his favorite songs, including one he had composed.
They remembered Liam as a prankster, known for his spunky attitude, infectious smile and love of soccer.
"My boys were really special," Irving Bailey said during the memorial service.
Bailey recalled several special memories he shared with his grandsons, including a trip last summer to Acadia National Park, where they picked wild blueberries alongside the trail they were hiking.
"Boys, until I see you again, I will be sustained by my wonderful memories," Bailey said during the service. "I hope one day that I can come to where you are and we can play together again."
Deanna Bailey's father, John Yarnell of Shelburne, described his grandsons as "renaissance lads" who enjoyed everything from Sponge Bob Squarepants to literary classics, video games to Beethoven.
"They were comfortable with everyone they met," Yarnell said.
Recently, Liam had taken an interest in World War II, asking Yarnell to explain key battles to him.
"Anything Liam did, he did with passion and intensity that is uncommon for a 10-year-old," Yarnell said.
Though more reserved, Solon "always had a fresh supply of jokes and riddles," Yarnell said. In addition to playing piano, Solon was also a Boy Scout who competed in pinewood derby competitions and brought home seven winning trophies.
"They had so much fun together," said the boys' aunt, Michele Bailey Thomas. "I will forever treasure their smiles and our time together."
The ceremony included several hymns, prayers and Bible verses read by family members. The Rev. Robert T. Jennings gave a homily encouraging mourners to seek solace in God's love.
"At a time like this, the God of heaven and the God of Earth is about all we have," Jennings said.
In addition to Tuesday's memorial service, a funeral is expected to be held later this week in Vermont. The family has not indicated when, however.
Cathy Bailey, a former ambassador to Latvia under President George W. Bush, is a major Republican fundraiser who has been considering a run for the U.S. Senate next year. Irv Bailey is former chairman and chief executive of Providian Corp., guiding the company through its merger with the Dutch firm Aegon in 1997.
Several national, state and local politicians attended the service, including Sen. Mitch McConnell and Congressmen John Yarmuth and Brett Guthrie, along with state representatives such as Kentucky Senate President David Williams.