VIDEO: Reverend dies in house fire, community mourns

Published on Thursday, 9 January 2014 09:04 - Written by From KYTX CBS19 Reports

ARP — A local reverend lost his life in a house fire early Wednesday morning in Arp. It was the first house fire fatality for Smith County this year.

The fire started before 3 a.m. and 93-year-old Rev. Leon Hackett couldn’t get out in time. He lived in the mobile home for more than 30 years.

“I picked him up every single Sunday morning, and took him to church and always took care of his yard,” neighbor and friend Rudolph Warren said.

Warren said he saw the reverend’s house burn to the ground as firefighters scrambled to find anyone inside.

A group of neighbors suspected Hackett was inside because his car was parked in the carport.

“Far as I know he doesn’t go anywhere but to church,” neighbor Joanne Williams said.

When it was confirmed that Hackett was inside his house during the fire, neighbors’ fears were realized.

“It’s going to be a great loss to the neighborhood,” Williams said.

Williams has a very special connection to Hackett.

“I asked him if he would marry my husband and I, and he said, ‘Yes.’ He married us in Overton at the community building,” she said.

Williams said Hackett lived a long life full of love.

“He’s a good man. He could touch and heal you,” Warren said. “His birthday is next week on (Jan. 16). He’d be 94 years old.”

Instead of his birthday, they’ll celebrate his life.

Hackett’s caretaker, who came to help him at his house every day, said she was too devastated to talk about what happened.

Hackett lived alone since his wife died three months ago. He leaves behind a daughter, a son and grandchildren, who all live out of state. No funeral arrangements were set up as of Wednesday afternoon.

Smith County Fire Marshal Jim Seaton is investigating the cause of the fire.