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Whittier Couple Married 64 Years Killed In House Fire

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WHITTIER (CBS) — A life-long love story came to a tragic end in Whittier when an elderly couple died in a fire at their home.

On Friday, flames engulfed the home of Ron and Peg Wanke, both 88 years old.

Their neighbor, Jesse Maldonado, said there were no signs of a fire at the home on Orange Drive until it was too late. Although he ran for the hose when he saw smoke at the back window and yelled for help, flames had already engulfed the home.

“I’m going in the house… when I opened the backdoor smoke was just all over and I went in like two feet, I had to back out because I couldn’t breathe,” he told CBS2.

Mrs. Wanke passed away Saturday morning after being hospitalized with severe burns. Police said her husband didn’t make it out alive.

The fire, still under investigation, is suspected to be electrical.

Neighbors said Mrs. Wanke was bed-ridden from a broken hip and her husband lost his life trying to save her.

“He was unable to help her and didn’t want to leave the house without her,” Neighbor Jacqueline Hernandez said.

They are remembered as the couple sitting on their porch together, gardening together and always walking hand-in-hand.

“They were very kind. They always say ‘hello’ as they walk together. They were a couple to be admired. They grew up to their elderly years together,” Hernandez added.

The Wankes were married 64 years.

They leave behind four children, 11 grandchildren, several great grandchildren and many neighbors and friends who say life just won’t be the same without them.

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