On Mother’s Day, Joy Jacksoncalled her former daughter-in-law,Cheryl Reis, in Byron, N.Y.
“I told her I loved her. I told her Ithought she was a wonderful motherfor raising those kids by herself andputting them through college,” saidJackson, who lives in Columbia.
Later that day, Jackson spoke toher granddaughters Virginia andEmily Reis, who also were in NewYork. Grandson Timothy Reis wasout on a date.
On Wednesday, a Columbia policeofficer came to Jackson’s doorwith tragic news. All four Reises haddied in a fire Monday night.
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Smoke detectors in the family’sapartment did not work, and all four— Cheryl, 51; Virginia, 21; Emily,19; and Timothy, 17 — succumbedto smoke inhalation, officials said.
The fire started just before 4:30a.m. on the first floor of Cheryl Reis’apartment. Firefighters said it beganin the kitchen, by the east wallnear the electric range. A cause hadnot been determined.
The Monroe County, N.Y., medicalexaminer’s office identified thefamily through dental records, authoritiessaid.
Jackson takes some comfort inknowing her last words to her familywere said in love, but she is stillheartbroken.
“I am devastated. Myheart is so heavy,” Jackson saidThursday through tears.She said her son David TimothyReis also is having troublecoping with the lossof his children.
Cheryl Reis workedat Hover-Davis Inc., aRochester, N.Y.-basedtape feeder manufacturingcompany.
Virginia, known as“Ginny,” and Emily hadattended elementary andsome middle school inSumter and Newberrycounties, Jackson said. The childrenwere young when they moved toNew York, where Cheryl Reis’ familylives, she said.
The children have a brother inColumbia and two sisters in Sumter.“They were great kids. They appreciatedeverything they had,”Jackson said.
Ginny — who was named forJackson’s mother, Virginia — hadspent spring break 2007 in Columbiawith her grandmother. Beforeher grandchildren started college,Jackson said, she and Cheryl Reiswould meet halfway in VirginiaBeach, Va., to visit.
Ginny was studying to becomea casting director and had just finishedthe spring semester at PurchaseCollege in New York.
Emily Joy — named after hergrandmother — was attending StateUniversity of New York at Binghamton.She was an athlete and aspiredto become a lawyer.
Timothy, a junior at Byron-Bergen High School, was a funnykid and a hockey standout whoplayed guitar with hisband, Jackson said.
Jackson — who playsthe piano, banjo andukulele, among other instruments— joked thatTimothy got his musicalability from her.
Jackson said hergranddaughters had justcome home from collegeand already had linedup summer jobs in NewYork.
This is not the first tragedy to befallher family, she said.
In August 1987, Jackson’s firsthusband, William A. Reis, wasstabbed to death during an armedrobbery at his store, Reis Gold andExchange on Rosewood Drive.
And last year, Cheryl’s sister DebraDutton, 45, died of cancer.
Still, Jackson said she cherishesthe memories she has.
“I want to say this to parents:Please be kind to your kids. Don’tbeat on them, and don’t say thingsyou can’t take back, because younever know.”
Reach Tate at (803) 771-8549. The Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., contributed.