Tears, Prayers For Fire Victims Church Holds Memorial Service; Parents Both In Serious Condition

Rob and Jill Schliebe were listed in serious condition Sunday, a day after their four young boys died in a fire.

Friends and family members struggled to cope with the loss of Derek, 8; Loren, 6; Steven, 4; and Justin, 2. The boys died of smoke inhalation and burns in the two-story home at 1327 N. Adams.

The Schliebes were injured while trying to save their children. Rob Schliebe, 29, broke his back and suffered burns on his face, head and hands. Jill Schliebe, 28, dislocated her hip, broke her knee and suffered cuts over her right eye. Both underwent surgery Saturday.

Rob Schliebe was taken off a respirator Sunday so he could speak with his family and his minister, Dick Avery, said his father, John Brevan.

Virtually everything the family owned was lost in the fire, the city’s worst in 40 years.

The Spokane Fire Department still is investigating the cause of the blaze.

The Schliebes have no medical insurance and no renters insurance, according to family members. “I don’t know what their needs might be - other than the children back,” said Mike Schliebe, Rob’s brother.

Meanwhile, members of the Schliebes’ church, Shadle Park Presbyterian, tried to cope with the tragedy during well-attended morning services.

“We’re just going to hang in there together,” Avery told the congregation.

They bowed their heads in meditation and prayer, many weeping softly and clutching tissues.

The blow was especially hard because the Schliebes are counted among the most active of the red-bricked church’s 300 members.

Was it just last Sunday that the entire family was seated in the front pews, hymn books in their hands?

Jill Schliebe, daughter of a Presbyterian pastor in St. Maries, leads Bible study and “Young Mothers” groups and is active in the children’s program.

Rob Schliebe led his first Bible study last week.

In his soulful sermon, Avery fondly recalled the four boys’ “spunk” and praised their “understanding of God.”

He urged the congregation not only to close ranks as a spiritual family but also to recognize how precious - and fragile - life can be.

Twice, Avery paused to wipe away tears.

“Lord, we’re hurting,” the pastor said, his voice quavering.

On Sunday, the pain inside the church was so great that the only good news of the morning was greeted with a loud burst of applause. A man proudly announced his granddaughter had been born.

While adults gathered in the modern sanctuary, children in another room prepared a 15-foot-long “get well” banner for the Schliebes, who share a hospital room at Deaconess Medical Center.

The children packed the banner with messages, drawings and pink and red hearts. Five-year-old Jory Bickler drew the Schliebes a blue tree “to make them feel better.”

Alison Reith drew a large heart around a message reading: “We think of you every day. We pray for you. We know you are very sad and thinking of Derk (sic), Loren, Steven and Justin. With love and care.”

Afterward, young and old sipped hot cider and comforted one another.

Avery did his best to smile.

“There are great tears,” he said, “but as Christians, we also believe there is life after this life. We believe the boys are in God’s hands.”

The church has established a trust fund for the couple’s hospital bills. Donations are being accepted at the church, 5508 N. Alberta, Spokane 99208, or at U.S. Bank branches in Spokane.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = William Miller Staff writer Staff writers Jonathan Martin and Kim Barker contributed to this report.

Tags: Death

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