Longtime resident perishes
A body found in a house that burned in the 900 block of Ash Street last Thursday afternoon was verified Monday to be the home's resident, Naomi J. Kidd.
Initially authorities were not able to identify the body, found in the northwest bedroom, but it was believed to be Kidd, a life-long Eudora resident who owned the burned home, another next door, and a handful of other lots around Eudora. The longtime employee of First National Bank in Lawrence involved herself in area organizations like the Lawrence Business Professional Women's Club. Later in life even as her health waned, Kidd still attended Eudora city meetings, often sitting quietly in the back.
"She was a very well-respected member of the community," said Eudora Fire Chief Spencer McCabe. "I think everybody noticed she started to deteriorate, but everybody still seemed to maintain that same level of respect for her."
Kidd's pastor at First Regular Missionary Baptist Church in Lawrence, the Rev. Reginald Bachus, remembered Kidd as someone who had been active in church organizations and who sang in the church choir. Even after she wasn't able to participate fully, Bachus said church members kept Kidd informed about a scholarship program with which she was involved.
"She was still very interested in it," he said.
Kidd was one of the church members whom about 40 years ago founded the A.L. Parker Scholarship Fund, in honor of the church's long-time pastor. At a business meeting the Monday before the fire, Bachus said church members decided to surprise Kidd with recognition for her hard work with the scholarship.
"I didn't tell her we were going to give her a plaque for the years she put in," Bachus said. "Unfortunately she won't be there, but we'll still honor her."
The church will have funeral services for Kidd at 11 a.m. Saturday. Kidd's family suggests memorials to the scholarship fund, sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary (See obituary, Page 3).
Police Chief Bill Long said Kidd died of smoke inhalation, but the cause of the fire was unknown. He said criminal motive had been ruled out.
McCabe said the extensive damage of the fire made it likely its cause would never be found.
"That's unfortunate, especially involving a fatality," he said.
McCabe said it appeared the fire started in the house's living room near the front door. A neighbor called for help at 2:20 p.m., and McCabe said witnesses and neighbors reported hearing loud bangs and looked out and saw smoke and fire. In all, McCabe estimated about 25 personnel were on the scene.
"(Initially) the fire was too intense to allow personnel to go inside," he said. "That house took some very intense heat."
With wind coming out of the north, Long said it was lucky the fire didn't spread to surrounding structures on the block, in the older section of Eudora with close lots. McCabe said authorities took measures to ensure the fire didn't jump to an empty house Kidd also owned to the south.
At Monday night's meeting the Eudora City Council commended authorities for their work with the fire. Council member Rex Burkhardt commiserated with firefighters who arrived on the scene to work a fire where they knew a life had already been lost.
"It bothers us as firefighters because we've never had a fire fatality as far as records go back -- they go back to 1970," McCabe said. "We've had people hurt, but never lost anybody."
Long, who has been on Eudora's police force since 1968, said he couldn't remember a fire fatality that far back either.
McCabe said he didn't know whether there was anything firefighters could have done differently to prevent Kidd's death, but he said the department would use the unfortunate scenario as a learning tool.
"Me and my crew will definitely be reviewing what has happened and discuss theories as to why it may have happened," he said. "We'll be planning and pursuing ideas to make sure we can prevent this as best as possible."