Aug. 11--A widowed Pennsylvania woman whose only son, an Army combat veteran of the Vietnam War, died Saturday in a roaring apartment house fire near Revere Beach, asked yesterday for others to honor his memory by treating all returning servicemen with respect and understanding.
"Love them for who they are, not what you want them to be. Don't change them," Gertrude Stasiak, 83, said yesterday after detectives told her that her son, George Maddox, 64, was dead.
"These guys went through terrible times. Terrible times. Vietnam was the first war where our boys came home and we slapped them for it," she said.
Maddox's body was found on the third floor of the four-story, eight-unit residence at 190 Campbell Ave. in the room where officials suspect the fire originated. Firefighters responded to the fire about 9:30 p.m.
Maddox's roommate, who Stasiak and the men's friend Susan Foti said was also a Vietnam War vet, "was yelling, 'Georgie, get up! There's fire!' And the smoke, as he said it, engulfed him, so he went for help," Foti said yesterday outside the partially gutted structure whose roof collapsed in part, and which abuts a home-based day care center. The roommate, who briefly was hospitalized, could not be reached for comment.
Red Cross officials said more than 35 people were displaced. Jake Wark of the Suffolk District Attorney's Office said the fire remains under investigation, but does not appear to be suspicious.
Revere Deputy Fire Chief James Cullen said last night the cause remains undetermined.
The building "looks like a total loss," said Cullen, who predicted financial damages will exceed $500,000.
Tarik Gharniti, 28, who lived below Maddox, escaped with his passport, documents and a pair of shoes.
"I was watching TV when the fire alarm went on," he said. "When I opened the door, a firefighter was already in his mask and he told me to get out of there. This one was bad."
Stasiak said she last spoke with her son Saturday and, "He was chipper than anything." She said he went to war at age 17 and never married or had children.
"He's had his problems, but he was one helluva good guy," she said. "God takes us for a good reason. I won't question it. He bought me a storm door years ago. Spent $500 on it, which is a lot for a storm door. But every time I walk through it I say, 'Thanks, George, this is a great door.' "
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