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Community mourns Bellevue family killed in fire

Emil Whitis • Dec 1, 2012 at 1:21 PM

Candlelight pushed back the darkness just a little bit Friday night at Greenwood Heights park in Bellevue.

Dozens of people stood in silence, mourning five family members who died Tuesday in an early morning house fire in Seneca County.

The dead: Joe Hamilton, 34; his wife, Holly Hamilton, 32; her daughter, Olivia Bondy, 11; and the couple's sons, Jaxon Hamilton, 8, and Linkin Hamilton, 6.

After a few moments, a sobbing woman broke the silence.

“These are the times in life that make you slow down," she said. “Be sure to hug your children when you go home tonight.”

Another woman stepped forward.

“I went to school with Holly,” Julia Parsley said. “She always stood up for me on the bus.”

Parsley had only recently reconnected with Holly on Facebook, but the years did nothing to erase memories of Holly’s bravery.

“I was a pudgy kid, but she never let them pick on me,” she said. “I never forgot that.”

The memories flickered to life. One close friend remembered how Holly drove all the way to Columbus just to help paint a living room. Another remembered how she shaved her head and got a shamrock tattooed on top, to show support for sick children.

But mostly, they remembered Holly’s fierce love for her children.

Luke Siegel-Schaefer, 36, of Bellevue, said he first met Joe Hamilton while tending bar at the Pier Dock in Bellevue. Back in those days, Joe was a regular. The two quickly became friends.

Siegel-Schaefer later moved to Columbus, although when he returned years later, he was at a parent-teacher conference when he ran into Joe. They discovered they were neighbors and they had children — Jaxon and Elijah — nearly the same age.

Like their fathers, Jaxon and Elijah became quick buddies.

“Elijah and Jaxon became best friends, whacking apples with a baseball bat, letting the dogs chase them into the field,” Siegel-Schaefer said, fighting back tears. “Jaxon was like one of my own and, of course, Olivia and Linkin, too.”

He remembered sleepovers and birthday parties.

“Elijah has a pillowcase that (Holly) made him on his bed right now,” Siegel-Schaefer said. “He’s carrying a marble that matches the one Jaxon had in his pocket that I bought them at the heritage festival.”

Someone brought up God.

“It’s hard to understand,” he said. “But you’ve got to try.”

The circle expanded long after the vigil began at 6 p.m. They all joined hands and prayed, and eventually the group broke up.

The children dashed away.

Except for Elijah.

“(Jaxon) was my first friend in kindergarten,” he said. “He was very, very nice and very, very silly. I liked him a lot.”

Earlier Friday, the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s office said they’d concluded their investigation into the deadly fire.

“Extensive damage prevented investigators from identifying a specific cause of the fire, however, the wood burner and propane heating system were ruled out,” an Ohio State Fire Marshal press release said. “Possible causes include electric space heaters that were used throughout the home and smoking.”

Investigators said they've found no evidence of foul play, and there were at least a few smoke detectors in the house. It’s unclear if those detectors had been working.

Funeral services for the Hamilton family will begin at 11:30 a.m. today at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Tiffin.

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