There were either no smoke detectors or they were not operational when a fire ripped through a Farmington residence, Fire Rescue Chief Terry Bell said. The fire resulted in the deaths of William and Tomasa Vincent and three dogs on Saturday. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

FARMINGTON — William “Bill” Vincent, 75, and his wife, Tomasa, 72, who died Saturday, were described Monday as hardworking, dedicated to family and dog lovers.

Bill died in a fire at their home. Tomasa escaped with help but died later from her injuries.

Bill was a retired school teacher, his nephew, the Rev. Richard Vincent of Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada, said Monday.

The couple was married about 15 years, Tomasa’s daughter, Tomasa “Tammie” Knowlton of Wilmington, Delaware, said. Her mother worked a variety of jobs, including in admissions at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport and later as a customer service representative in retention at MBNA, a credit card center, she said.  There is a long lineage of Tomasa’s in the family, Tammie said, including her oldest daughter.

“I do love that we share her name,” Tammie said.

Bill was a teacher for 35 years and taught at several schools, including Nokomis High School in Newport, Oak Hill High School in Wales and a Christian school in Bangor, Richard said. His uncle became legally blind after his retirement, he said.

Fire and police officials responded to a call just before 5 a.m. at 160 Clover Mill Road for a fire that appeared to have started as a result of combustible material placed next to the woodstove, according to a news statement Saturday from the Office of State Fire Marshal.

“Uncle Bill was a tremendous teacher and an outstanding coach,” Richard said. He taught a variety of subjects but in the years before retirement, he taught math. Among the sports, he coached were football, soccer, wrestling, baseball and softball. After he finished up coaching for the day, he caught a quick supper and he taught adult education classes.

“My uncle helped to raise me in my teenage years,” Richard said. “He made room in his life for me.”

Richard, 50, and his uncle spoke two or three times a week, each about an hour long.

“We would talk about football and family,” Richard said. “My last conversation with him was Thursday before the fire on Saturday.”

“He loved the Patriots,” he said. “At the end of the conversation, I told him how much I loved him and asked him to tell Aunt Tomasa how much I loved her.”

His uncle told him how proud he was of him and Richard told his uncle that he ‘played a big part in my life,’ he said.

“I got the feeling that this might be the last time I would speak to him,” he said.

Tammie said she has “just been regaled with stories of our mother’s kindness and generosity.”

Tammie has two sisters, Noreen Bowden of Hawaii and Abbie Koshak of Florida.

“Our mom was an incredible mother, an amazing woman. She loved everyone, Tammie said. “She loved to garden and was an incredible cook. She was a doting grandmother to her five grandchildren,” she said. “Our mom was a dog lover. She and my stepdad, Bill, had dogs. They loved them like children.”

The couple met at church.

“They both worshiped. Their faith was strong,”  Tammie said. “Our mom’s faith in the Lord was so strong.”

“She taught forgiveness and to never judge,” Tammie’s husband, David, said.

While growing up, Bill taught his nephew the quality of honoring his responsibilities and having a good work ethic, Richard said.

Bill had two daughters, Helen and Laura, with his first wife.

“My uncle was a man’s man,” he said. “He was compassionate and the most loving individual. He loved his wife and his two daughters.”

He also loved his siblings, he said. Everyone is devastated, he said.

“My uncle never had a son but he treated me like I was his son,” he said.

His aunt provided a lot of care and support to his uncle, including while he was undergoing surgeries or other hospitalizations.

“She cared and loved my uncle,” he said. “She was faithful in her commitment and her love towards my uncle.”

His uncle used to take him to church when he was younger but in the end, he didn’t get out much. When COVID-19 struck, people were in lockdown.

During one service that Richard was conducting in Canada, he encouraged people to call family. He called his uncle.

“The Lord greatly ministered to my uncle, refilling him with his Spirit,” Richard said. “I would not be where I am today without my uncle.”

Bill’s younger sister by 18 months, Merrillyn McKee, said her brother loved kids,” she said

“Billy and I grew up in Augusta. He went to Cony High School and graduated in 1964,” she said. “My brother was a wonderful man. He would take the shirt off his back for anyone. I am heartbroken for my brother.”

Tammie said every person she has encountered, from the fire marshal to the Farmington hospital staff, has “treated us with such kindness and compassion.”

Richard said he was thankful for everyone who has been involved, including a passerby who tried to save family members, firefighters, police and hospital staff.

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