Sisters were quiet, well loved in community
"It's a real loss to the community," says close friend and neighbour Eulalee Irving of sisters Janet and Paulette James, who perished in a fire at their home on Sunday morning in Crossroads, St Ann.
"They were two quiet sisters, jovial persons, and really honest people. They were never involved in anything, no disputes, nothing," she pointed out.
Irving, like the James sisters, grew up in Crossroads, a short distance from Keith district, and, as children, attended the Keith All-Age school, where Irving now teaches.
Janet, affectionately called Frances, the older sister at 59 years old, was deaf and could hardly speak; and Paulette, also called Baby Lou, two years younger, came from a poor family. After leaving Keith All-Age, they stayed home with their mother until she passed away some years ago.
"So they are really persons who don't go out and work out, but they help themselves," Irving explained, speaking in the present tense as if the sisters were still around. "Janet is full of life. She does a lot of things. She can do a little sewing, a little embroidery, and she loves to cook."
Relatives who live abroad assisted the sisters with their day to day living.
It was just last Thursday that their brother returned to Canada after attending a funeral in the community.
The news of the double tragedy hit him hard, The Gleaner was told.
Irving's sister, Olga, who resides in Canada, had also attended the funeral. She grew up in Crossroads before migrating and was friends with the James sisters.
After the April 2 funeral, Olga decided to spend a few extra weeks.
The last two Fridays before the sisters' untimely deaths, she travelled with them to Brown's Town to shop.
"The experience was wonderful; four sisters went shopping," she remembered. "We sat and we ate and we shopped. We took the taxi to Brown's Town and we took it back. When they didn't have the money to buy certain things, I would pay for it for them," Olga reminisced.
She admitted that the shopping experience left her with some pleasant memories. "Very pleasant, very pleasant," she said.
Paulette attended the New Testament Church of God in Lawrence Park, a nearby community. Janet, on the other hand, visited the Pentecostal Church in Crossroads, maybe 300 metres from their house.
"Janet, despite her handicap, is a fun loving person. She just likes to dress up in different hairstyles," Eulalee said.
The sisters would spend a lot of time at the Irving home and sometimes even sleep there. The last time Janet slept there, a few nights before the fire, she took off the pillow case in the morning and said she was going to wash it. Up to Tuesday, the pillow remained on the bed in the same position she left it.
Night of the fire
Both sisters were at the Irving's house on Saturday night and left before dark to go home because their brother, who flew out on Thursday, had suggested that they not stay out late.
That was the last time they visited. They died in an early morning fire that gutted their home after the house was set ablaze, residents said, by men seeking a man who they accused of stealing money from them.
Like sisters Eulalee and Olga, other community members had nothing but good words to say of the sisters.
"The community respond with plenty grief," said Maureen, who lives in adjoining premises to the James sisters. "All ah we grieve over this. Dem don't deserve it, a good people dem."
On Tuesday, the police returned to the scene as investigations continued.