Hillsborough County Florida

Fire Destroys House Killing 3
By JOSE PATINO GIRONA jpatino@tampatrib.com
Published: Dec 29, 2002

SEFFNER - Almost 25 years ago, Lillie Belle and Armster Williams built a house where they settled down, raised their children and reached their dreams.
But their story took a tragic turn Saturday when an early morning fire destroyed their home and killed Lillie Belle, Armster and their 30-year-old grandson, Carlos Delancy, relatives said.

The three were found in a hallway near the house's front door, said Frank Fernandez, a deputy fire marshal with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

The three had been sleeping in the living room.

They apparently used space heaters and a fireplace for warmth, as the temperature dipped into the lower 40s during the night. The central heating unit wasn't working, Fernandez said.

Investigators have not pinned down the cause of the fire, which is under investigation, Fernandez said. It is not clear whether the family had working smoke detectors, Fernandez said, because the fire destroyed the roof.

Firefighters received the call at 6:21 a.m. for a fire at 6560 Stark Road.

The fire was under control about 7:50 a.m., a fire official said.

A daughter of the deceased couple, Betty Jackson, who lives next door, learned of the fire when a neighbor banged on her door.

Jackson's daughter and her boyfriend ran next door but couldn't get into the house because of heavy smoke and heat, Jackson said.

Lillie Belle and Armster had been married about 50 years. They were hard workers and religious people, said their son, Lee Williams of St. Petersburg. Armster, 71, retired as a longshoreman and was a Pentecostal minister. Lillie Belle, 73, retired from manufacturing.

Delancy was their grandson, the son of one of the couple's daughters. He had a mental illness, and Lillie Belle helped raise him since he was 6, Lee Williams said.

Recently, Armster suffered a stroke and had a stomach operation.

He had been home for one month after spending time at a nursing home, Lee Williams said.

``My father was a hard worker,'' Lee Williams said.

``All he thought about was work. Even when he was sick in the hospital, he thought about work.''

Lillie Belle and Armster are survived by their son, Lee; and three daughters: Jackson of Seffner; Sarah Delancy of Sanford, the mother of Carlos Delancy; and Delores Morgan of Shreveport, La.

Reporter Jose Patino Girona can be reached at (813) 657-4534.