SANTA ROSA (AP/CBS SF) — George Powell woke to a wall of fire already bearing down on his Santa Rosa home and immediately yelled to his 72-year-old wife, Lynne Anderson Powell: “Get out!”
Lynne Powell grabbed her border collie, Jemma, which always slept next to her, a laptop and asked for the best way to get away from their Blue Ridge Trail mountain home before jumping in her car.
George Powell left 15 minutes later after fetching his three dogs. He now realizes when he raced down the mountain he drove past his wife’s car that had gone off the road and into a ravine as she tried to escape to Mark West Springs Road in the heavy smoke.
After searching for her all night and the next day, a detective called to tell him a body burned beyond recognition was found steps from her car. Inside was a dog also burned to death.
“If I had known, I would have gone down there with her, even if it meant I would have died with her,” the 74-year-old Powell said. “I don’t know how I’m going to cope. She was my life.” He repeated: “She was my life.”
The couple had been married for 33 years. He was a photojournalist and she was a professional flutist, spending much of her career playing for the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, which operated until 2011.
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The two met while she was on vacation in Los Angeles, where George Powell freelanced for newspapers. He said it was “love at first sight” and he moved to New Mexico to be with her. After they retired, they settled in northern California so his wife could take care of her aging parents.
The two shared a love of border collies and entered in agility runs with their dogs. She was an avid quilter. The fire took everything, including her quilts and his life’s photo archive.
Lynne Powell did not want a memorial service or obituary. But George Powell said he may hold a special lunch with friends to celebrate her life.
“I don’t think I ever felt unloved or uncared for any second of my life with her,” he said.