Vicksburg family works to recover from house fire

Published 9:31 am Monday, October 10, 2016

Stephanie Marley McMechan grew up in the family home on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“As the baby of the family, I had the benefit of living there the longest,” she said. “This house was where I grew up, raised two kids and my father taught my son so many amazing lessons.”

It’s where she has memories of spending summer days and where her mother, 76-year-old Betty Marley, has lived for the past 44 years.

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But now all that is left of Marley’s home is memories and a few photos and items she and her family managed to salvage after a fire heavily damaged her home at 2249 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. last Monday.

“I’m thankful I didn’t drive up and it was rubble, but the sheer devastation inside looks like a war zone,” McMechan said. “It’s surreal. Only a couple of rooms weren’t damaged (by fire), and if they weren’t, there is smoke and water damage. My mom has a den but no kitchen or front door. Nothing is safe. The floor is delicate as paper in spots.”

McMechan, who grew up in Vicksburg but now lives in Monroe, La., said her mother and sister waited for her to arrive before walking up to the house the night of the fire.

“It just burned through like tinder,” she said. “Smoke had been billowing from the house. (My mom) must feel like she’s lost her right arm.”

After barely managing to recover a few prized possessions from the house, like the antique guns her father owned, McMechan said they took her mother to the hospital to treat a combination of shock and breathing problems related to her asthma after being in the charred house.

Because Marley was in the process of visiting the doctor and arranging forms for the American Red Cross, she requested McMechan speak for her.

“I just don’t want her to handle so much stress,” McMechan said of her mother’s current situation.

Marley, who has worked for the Vicksburg Animal Hospital for more than 50 years, considers Vicksburg her home, her daughter said. Marley’s late husband, Frank Marley Sr., was a former principal at Kings Elementary and owned a store on Veto Street.

“My dad passed away six years ago, and all that history now has no tangibles, just a few photos from a wall of pictures,” she said.

Despite the fire’s devastation, McMechan said her mother has a community here in Vicksburg.

“My mom has been a Vicksburg girl her whole life. She just has so much of a community,” she said. “I pray in my numbness that the community is praying with us and can make a small difference in this grief. Everyone I’ve met since the fire has been amazing, compassionate, and the fire department deserves kudos for their work.”

Marley has been living out of a hotel for the past few days and working to arrange a more permanent solution.

“We don’t know what’s next,” McMechan said. “We’re hoping that something can gel here in Vicksburg. There’s a face and a family that needs to get their lives back together.”

In order to help fund Marley’s new start after the fire, her granddaughter, Martika Brianne Ross, created a Go Fund Me account called Betty’s Fund to help offset some of the costs accrued during the fire and “to help my grandmother get her life back together,” according to the page, which can be found by searching Betty’s Fund and selecting the page with Ross’ name.

“She needs it now more than ever,” Ross said.

McMechan added she could be reached at for any potential donations of food, clothing, etc.