Grosse Pointe responds to fire tragedy: 'They lost everything'
Grosse Pointe — A steady flow of well-wishers filed onto the Fisher Street porch of Lynn Weber's home Tuesday, dropping off clothing, new shoes and other items for the parents of two boys who died Monday in a house fire.
Most of the visitors declined to talk about the tragedy that claimed 11-year-old Walter Briggs Connolly and his brother Logan, 9.
"They lost everything," said Weber, the family's representative, as she collected items in two large plastic containers on her front porch. "Everybody wants to do something. They lost their only children ... their most precious children."
Weber, who lives three houses away from the family, said both boys were avid hockey players. A social media campaign, using the hashtag #SticksOutForLoganAndBriggs, urged players to leave their hockey sticks propped against their homes in tribute.
The St. Clair Shores Hockey Association is asking people to attend a prayer service "to mourn this tragic loss" at 6 p.m. Wednesday at St. Paul on the Lake in Grosse Pointe Farms.
The brothers were found overcome by smoke inhalation as they became trapped in their parents' bedroom trying to escape the flames that had consumed the first floor of their Fisher Road home around 7:50 a.m. Monday. The house is in the 700 block of Fisher Road between Kercheval and Mack.
The boys were the only children of Walter Connolly, a teacher at the International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, and his wife, Azucena Beltran-Connolly.
Walter Connolly was already at his job and his wife had left the home before the fire began, authorities said.
Stephen Poloni, public safety director for Grosse Pointe and Grosse Pointe Park, said preliminary indications are that the fire began in the home's kitchen. An arson task force made up of Michigan State Police, the Detroit Fire Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating.
Poloni said "it's still too early to tell" what caused the blaze. Ronnie Dahl, an ATF spokeswoman, said the agency is participating in the investigation to offer expertise, not because of any suspicion about the fire's origins.
On Tuesday, a growing memorial of floral bouquets, adorned by a group picture of youngsters, was propped against a tree in the Connollys' yard next to the road.
Besides collecting donations, Weber said Grosse Pointe residents are supporting the family through a GoFundMe campaign.
"Azucena, who works at Dencap Dental Plans, appreciate everyone's outpouring of love and support," read a note from the organizer of the fund Tuesday. "If you can, please donate directly to financially support them while they mourn and begin to heal."
Weber released a statement Tuesday on behalf of the Connollys, saying: "The Connolly family would like to express their heartfelt gratitude for the overwhelming support and kindness from the community. From the basic necessities to the incredible financial donations the family has been humbled by this communities (sic) generosity.The family would greatly appreicate privacy at this time."
The statement continued: "A memorial is being organized for Saturday (time to be determined) at the Grosse Pointe Academy. All those who would like to celebrate the lives of these two beautiful boys are welcome."