Woman tells story of loss to underscore safety in heating home
“If something were to happen, I would feel responsible for not saying something.”
This was the thought of Carthage, Mo., resident Bessie Workman when she told her story.
During the recent ice storm, Bessie and her husband, Oakley, were out of power for a short while. In order to stay warm, Oakley purchased a butane heater to set up in the Workman home, at the advice of a local business. The heater was set up in the kitchen when the scene sparked a memory for Bessie.
It was 61 years ago in Albuquerque, N.M., when 16-year-old Bessie was three months pregnant and married to Pfc. Bob Fifield. An improperly set up heater in their home killed Bob, the unborn child and almost Bessie.
“I was devastated when I lost Bob and that baby,” Bessie said. “I have a picture I want to show people of what I lost … They didn’t do screenings back then, but we were hoping for a boy. Bob wanted someone to carry on his family name.”
This memory drove Bessie to seek further advice on the heater sitting in her kitchen. She said when she lived on Fir Road (in Carthage) she remembers knowing these heaters were safe in well-ventilated areas.
“But not in your kitchen,” she said firmly.
The Carthage Fire Department advised Bessie to immediately remove the heater from her home, which made her wonder.
“How many other people have these little butane heaters in their houses now?” Bessie asked. “It’s dangerous. The fire department is going to be making a lot of calls.”
With more cold weather on the way, and residents trying to keep warm, Bessie said “it was necessary” she warn people of the small heaters’ potential of danger. She keeps pictures of her and Bob, and brags of his service in WWII.
“He served all the way through the war with the paratroopers as an automobile mechanic,” she said.