Esther Wade read a newspaper article that was written on September 29, 1972. It described the danger her sister was in. "Gulfport firemen said the wood frame one story house was almost fully engulfed in flames when the nine men and five units arrived on the scene."
When she was eight, Cathy got trapped in her family's burning home. Her mom remembers the panic. "I did a mental head count," Dorothy Jarrell said. "They already called the fire department. I realized Cathy was missing. Well I jumped out the door and ran down to try to go to her. And my husband was already down there trying to get her. Naturally, they wouldn't let him in the house."
The 1972 fire was on Fifth Street in Gulfport's Handsboro community. That morning, a fireman pulled Cathy out of the burning home. And two other firemen gave her CPR until they got her to the hospital.
Cathy survived. But she had to wear bandages to protect the third degree burns that covered much of her body.
For 29 years, Cathy was often in pain. But she tried not to complain. Her mom says, "It was her strength that we drew from."
Cathy Jarrell died December 1, 2001 because of health problems linked to her 29 year old burns. She lived longer than anybody imagined. And for that, her family is eternally grateful. "I'm glad she's not suffering anymore," Wade said. "I miss her. But I'm glad she's not suffering anymore."
Dorothy Jarrell said prayer helped her daughter deal with her illness. Prayer is what Mrs. Jarrell is leaning on to get through her daughter's death. "It's a great amount of comfort," Mrs. Jarrell said. "I know she's with God."
Cathy Jarrell was 37.
To help with funeral expenses, a Cathy Jarrell Memorial Fund has been set up at any Hancock Bank. Her funeral is Wednesday.