A Christmas tragedy struck Stamford, Conn. early yesterday morning, three children and their two grandparents died in a fire that overtook a Victorian house, the New York Times reported. The owner of the house — advertising executive Madonna Badger — escaped from the flames that killed her children and parents. A family friend also got out.
According to the Times a neighbor said that Badger, 47, repeated the phrase “my whole life is in that house” as she was taken away by firefighters.
Badger founded the Badger & Winters Group, and had previously worked at Calvin Klein. Her daughters — Lily, Grace and Sarah — were 9 and 7 when they died, the Times reported. Grace and Sarah were twins.
In a sad holiday twist, Badger’s father, 71-year-old Lomer Johnson, had spent the previous day working as Santa in Manhattan’s flagship Saks Fifth Avenue, doing what the Times called his “dream job:”
Known professionally as “Happy Santa,” he advertised his act through Gigmasters.com, but initially found work only in a Connecticut mall. But the jobs proved rife with anecdotes. Once, when a cashier was late to work, and a line of disappointed children were told they would have to wait an hour or more for their photo with Santa, Mr. Johnson took it upon himself to open the gate and declare that pictures that morning would be free — as long as visitors had their own cameras.
This year, he successfully auditioned to be Saks’s Santa, and on Christmas Eve he worked there, giving out candy canes and posing for photos, while his wife watched and updated the family on the phone about the scene, the family member said.
Lomer and wife Pauline’s 49th wedding anniversary was supposed to be today.
Acting Fire Chief Antonio Conte said that even though firefighters were aware that people were inside the burning home, they were unable to perform a rescue because of the large size and high heat of the flames, according to the Associated Press.
The AP also reported that, because of the extensive damage to the home, fire officials will have to wait some days until they can begin to investigate the fire’s cause.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 26, 2011