Gordon Street and Collee Court
EAST NAPLES — The woman who died in Thursday’s duplex fire in East Naples was a kind, welcoming, hard-working woman and dedicated wife to a now devastated husband, said neighbors who knew her for 15 years.
Lori Brown, who celebrated her 52nd birthday earlier this month, was positively identified Tuesday by the Collier County Sheriff’s Office as the woman who passed away in the 11:30 p.m. fire at the corner of Gordon Street and Collee Court.
“We were only able to make a positive ID today, and that was through medical records and a forensic anthropologist,” Sheriff’s Office Spokeswoman Michelle Batten said.
Lori Schultz and her daughter, Mary Schultz, moved into the neighborhood within six months of the day Brown moved in, and the three came to know each other well, the two women said.
“I’m just glad I have the memories of 15 years of laughs, joy and smiles,” Mary Schultz said of Brown. “I’m glad I had all those times.”
Mary Schultz said Brown would exhibit her kind-heartedness every day as she rode her bicycle to the nearby Walmart store off Tamiami Trail East, where she worked as a customer service manager for a decade. When she visited the store, Mary Schultz said Brown would always stop to talk with her.
“She was a remarkable woman,” Mary Schultz said. “She always made you feel welcome.”
Brown always kept her bird feeders full and enjoyed maintaining beautiful flower beds, Mary Schultz said. She and her husband, Kevin McGarty, were inseparable, and would occasionally spend time fishing. The couple was to celebrate their 9th wedding anniversary in August.
“He’s pulling himself together and making it through. He’s going to take this situation and grow stronger through it,” Mary Schultz said of McGarty. “Lori was his world.”
The night of the fire, some other neighbors expressed worries of Brown’s fate. One of those worried was neighbor Miguel Rivera, who said he rushed outside as the fire started, ran to the front of the duplex and found McGarty trying to get in.
“He was trying to get in because his wife was inside,” Rivera said.
Batten said the death investigation being conducted by the Sheriff’s Office was not a criminal investigation. The State Fire Marshall’s office is conducting an investigation into the cause of the fire and is expected to release more details soon.
“It was a tragedy,” said Mary Schultz, who was home at the time of the fire. “It was a 100 percent accident, and everything that could have been done was done.”
The Red Cross is helping find temporary living arrangements for the surviving victims of the fire, East Naples Fire Rescue District Spokesman Greg Speers said.
One man suffered smoke inhalation and three cats also died in the fire, Speers said. Two of the cats were Brown’s and McGarty’s, and most of the couple’s possessions were also destroyed, Mary Schultz said.
Lori Schultz said she remembered how she and Brown would joke about how they spelled their first names the same way. As she told the story, Lori Schultz choked up, and said how much she will miss her friend and neighbor.
“She was just the glue that kept our neighborhood together,” Lori Schultz said. “She was our rock.”