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Deaf Woman, 98, Saved as Fire Threatens Home

March 28, 1987|JERRY COHEN | Times Staff Writer

Firemen kicked down a front door of a flame-threatened duplex in South-Central Los Angeles early Friday and rescued a sleeping 98-year-old deaf woman from her bedroom.

The blaze destroyed a garage at the rear of the structure at 964-968 West 43rd Place and scorched the walls of the room from which firefighters rescued Willie Mae Jackson, a widow who has been deaf for 50 years.

A woman and her two sons escaped unaided from the other side of the duplex when they were awakened by the sound of the fire, as did another woman who fled a small house at the rear of the property which was badly damaged. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

Firemen responded to a telephone call from next-door neighbors who said they heard a "popping sound" at about 2 a.m. It took about an hour to put out the blaze.

A niece of Jackson, Erlene Steward of Gardena, said relatives had long sought to persuade the childless widow, a former seamstress, to move in with them rather than live alone. But, Steward said, Jackson stubbornly refused to leave the dwelling where she had resided for more than 25 years.

"So the best we could do was have a home-care woman come in every day," Steward said, adding that about a dozen years ago Jackson spent two weeks in a convalescent home following a successful cataract operation. "I think if we ever tried to put her in a nursing home again, she would have died."

Until other plans can be made, Steward added, relatives planned for Jackson to live, at least temporarily, with a nephew in Compton.

Jackson lost her hearing following a severe case of influenza in the 1930s, Steward said, adding that the deaf widow can speak and that relatives communicate with her by writing notes.

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