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Couple wed for 75 years dies after California wildfire consumes their home

by Scott Stump / / Source: TODAY

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A World War II veteran and his wife of 75 years died together when a fast-moving wildfire swept through their California home.

Charles Rippey, 100, and his wife, Sara, 98, were not able to escape when fires that have killed at least 17 others across the state engulfed their home in Napa on Sunday.

 Charles Rippey, 100, and his wife, Sara, 98, shown here in this undated photo, died together after a wildfire swept through their California home. AP

"We kids would always talk about what it would be like if one of them died and the other was still alive,'' one of their sons, Mike Rippey, 71, told The New York Times.

"They just couldn’t be without each other. The fact that they went together is probably what they would have wanted."

The couple's caregiver tried to rescue them as the fire reached their home but could not get them out in time, another son said.

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"She went down to get my father and all the windows started to explode and (there was) smoke and heat and all that everywhere,'' their son Chuck Rippey told NBC Bay Area. "She just couldn’t find them."

The couple, who had five children, 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary in March, according to the Napa Valley Register.

Their granddaughter, Ruby Gibney, posted a black-and-white photo of them from their younger days. The two had known each other nearly all their lives after growing up together in Wisconsin.

They were separated for four years when Charles went to Europe and North Africa in World War II, where he became a captain in the Army Corps of Engineers. He returned from the war to become an engineer at Firestone, the Napa Valley Register reported.

Chuck Rippey discovered his parents' bodies in the remains of the home on Monday. He told NBC Bay Area that even though his father used a walker, he almost made it through the smoke and heat to be by Sara's side in their final moments.

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter.

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