November 2, 1995 in Washington Voices

Sorrow And Support Friends And Neighbors Reach Out To Offer Assistance And Sympathy To Couple Who Lost Children, Home

By The Spokesman-Review

Friends describe Rob and Jill Schliebe as hard-working Christians who have gladly given their time and energy to help others.

Now, in response to the tragic fire last Saturday that killed their four sons and left the Schliebes homeless and hospitalized, North Side residents are returning the favor.

“Parents are thinking, ‘What can be more difficult than losing all this at once?”’ said Lili Hare, Jill Schliebe’s friend and Bible study partner. “This is when you need people the most - in the dark times.”

People have reached for the wallets, giving money to a trust fund at the Shadle Park branch of U.S. Bank set up by the Schliebe’s church, and to donation boxes in the school attended by the Schliebe children and at Rob and Jill Schliebe’s work places.

One person anonymously dropped a bag of snacks at the Deaconess Medical Center waiting room for the Schliebes’ relatives. Another called to offer clothes. More donations are coming in daily.

Much of the response is coming from Shadle Park Presbyterian Church, where Rob Schliebe volunteered as a groundskeeper and Jill was a Sunday school teacher.

Church members gave donations to the Schliebes at services on Sunday, and money continues to trickle in. One couple with a large house in Woodridge offered to take the Schliebes in without charge, as long as is necessary.

“In the church, the Schliebes are part of the family,” said church member Steve Renz.

Rob and Jill Schliebe literally lost everything early Saturday morning when the two-story house they were renting at 1327 N. Adams caught fire and quickly roared into an inferno.

They were injured when they fell from a second-story window after trying unsuccessfully to save the lives of their four boys.

The Schliebes were moved from intensive care late Tuesday night and are listed in satisfactory condition at Deaconess. Rob broke his back and suffered burns; Jill has a dislocated hip, broken knee cap and burns.

Although the Schliebes’ relatives are primarily concerned about the couple’s health, financial concerns are surfacing. The family had neither medical nor renter’s insurance, according to Mike Schliebe, Rob’s brother.

Rob Schliebe is the manager of the Radio Shack store at 525 W. Indiana. Jill Schliebe was hired as a nurse’s aide at Sullivan Park Care Center in August, too recently to qualify for medical benefits.

Relatives have applied to Medicaid for the Schliebes, but the family is expecting bills for the expensive surgeries performed on Rob’s back and Jill’s hip and knee.

Asked what the Schliebes need the most, John Bevan, Rob’s father, said, “Lots of prayer. I’d ask people if they can contribute to the trust fund.”

Almost everything the family owned was destroyed in the blaze. On Sunday, Mike Schliebe pulled a few scrapbooks - including the baby book of 8-year-old Derek - and a case of country music cassettes out of the charred house.

In the basement, untouched by the fire, were a few odds and ends, including a washing machine and dryer, snow skis and baby blankets.

Friends said the couple is hard-working, but was always “just scraping by financially.”

“They lived a simple life, they made it work,” said Renz. “They were just trying to be good people.”

Shadle Park Presbyterian associate pastor Greg Carter said the church could not give out the size of the trust fund but said the church had received a few hundred phone calls and letter.

Other people in Spokane have offered household goods. A consortium of 11 North Side churches called OMEGA Outreach Ministry for the Emerson-Garfield Area - offered a couch, a bed and dresser and living room chairs. A stove might also be available.

Sullivan Park Care Center, 14820 E. Fourth, is holding a giant bake sale Friday to raise money for the couple. Several local supermarkets - including Rosauers, Albertson’s, Safeway, Yoke’s and Fred Meyer - are donating food. Sullivan Park is also inviting its 150 employees to contribute to the trust fund, said social services coordinator Valerie Collette.

At Holmes Elementary, where Jill Schliebe volunteered in the classrooms of her second-grade son, Loren, and third-grade son, Derek, faculty have also set up a donation box.

Friends from the past have also stepped forward. The Elk Community Church, where the Schliebes used to worship, called the Shadle Park church to ask what they could do.

Neighbor Ruth Danel, who called 911 to report the fire, said she has seen a steady stream of cars drive slowly past the burned out house on North Adams.

Some have stopped and placed bouquets on a stump in the front yard. Others have rounded up footballs and baseballs the Schliebes played with. One neighbor left a photo of Derek, bundled for winter and grinning as he sat in an innertube.

Danel, a Boeing worker on strike, doesn’t have the money to contribute to the trust fund. But, like many others, she said there is little she wouldn’t do to help.

“I’ve told Mike (Schliebe), if there is anything I can do, anything at all, I’ll do it,” said Danel.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 Color)

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email