“They were just a real tight knit family, a really happy family. They had a lot of good family times together,” said Rogers City Baptist Church Pastor David Rogers.
Five members of the family, the father and four children, perished in a fire early Tuesday morning in Rogers City. Those victims include Kirt Wang, 39; Steven, 16; Sarah, 15; NaLeah, 5; and Emily, 3. The matriarch of the family, Kellie Wang, was the only survivor.
Rogers said the family had attended the church for a number of years, although they currently were not members. Steven and Sarah were enrolled in the school at the church for a while and both participated in sports while there.
“Last year Steve was the goalie on our soccer team and they gave him the nickname ‘Snake’ because he was really agile and good as a goalie,” Rogers said.
Jayme Warwick, Kellie’s step-brother, said the entire family was kind and very close. He said Kirt was “kind of quiet, but very warm to talk to. He made my day when I was around him.”
Mary Lou Ikens, who lives across the street from Kellie’s mother and stepfather remembers the family fondly.
“They were extremely close. There is no doubt about that,” Ikens said. “They have seen lots of difficulties that they have been overcoming as a family.”
Warwick said Emily had some physical issues, but when someone looked at her they would not be able to tell.
“Emily was just like her sister Sarah — very friendly and likeable. She ripped around all over the place and had a big smile that would light up a room when she came into it,” he said.
Ikens remembers all the children as being delightful and very close.
Rogers said Sarah was on the volleyball team at the school last year and all the girls on the team really liked her. He said students at the school were devastated when they found out about the tragedy and took some time to sit down and talk about it Wednesday morning.
“The students took some time to go through and share memories that each of them had and it was good. There were some tears and some laughing. With teens there are always some silly moments,” he said.
Steve was a basketball fan, especially the Pistons. Warwick said he was a lot like his father.
“He was a little shy and a very good older brother to his sisters,” he said.
NaLeah is remembered by Warwick as “a real sweetheart. She was more like Steve and her dad, shy, bashful and kind. Just a precious young girl.”
Warwick, Rogers and Ikens described Kellie as a devoted mother.
“Her whole world was those kids. She never worked outside the home so she could be with the kids. She was mom’s taxi cab,” Rogers said.
Warwick said it was rare when one member of the family was seen without the others and that Kellie did not have any hobbies except her family.
In the face of such a loss, Warwick said Kellie is devastated.
“She is a very strong person and we have a lot of faith in God,” he said. “She is coming around a little I think now that she is finally out of the hospital and actually coping with it the best I think anybody could.”
Ted Beck, owner of Beck Funeral Home in Rogers City, is handling the funeral arrangements for the family. He said he has seen an outpouring of aid for the family offered from all facets of the community.
“We have had people calling and offering every type of help you can imagine. They want to donate, they want to give. I have had people stop me on the street and say they want to help,” Beck said.
Beck said nine different funeral homes have called, almost every church in the area has contacted him and countless individuals have either called or stopped by to see how they could help.
“The outpouring of love and support is almost beyond comprehension, yet not really. The community we live in, the people are like that. They are wonderful,” Beck said.
He said many people are offering their time and prayer. The ladies groups from various churches have offered to prepare food for the visitation and services and the churches have offered use of their buildings for the services.
In an effort to aid Kellie Wang, a deposit account has been set up at the Huron National Bank in Rogers City. Bank Vice President Erik Nadolsky said the account was set up Tuesday so people could donate money to the family.
“The response has been very favorable. I was at a meeting at 7:30 this morning and at 8:30 a.m. I already had a donation in my hand before I even came to work,” Nadolsky said.
Those interested in making a contribution can do so by stopping by the bank located at 200 East Erie Street, or mailing a check to the bank at P.O. Box 240, Rogers City, MI 49779.
“This is a tight-knit community. In a small community everyone is going to want to do something and this is just one avenue for people to help,” Nadolsky said.
Janelle Packer can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5695.
News Photo by Janelle Packer
Students put together a memorial to the Wang children in one of he display cases at the school