In my eyes, she still had a long way to go. She was a firecracker. —Son, Marc VanHuizen
WEST JORDAN — Forty years to the day that Frankie and Johnny Foutz were married, the house they built together caught fire.
By that time, Johnny Foutz had been dead for more than 15 years after an accident in the home's driveway. Frankie Foutz survived the blaze only to die of an apparent heart attack close to two days later.
"Now I know they're together," their son, Marc VanHuizen, said Tuesday. "They're enjoying it."
Frankie Foutz, 71, was at the home at 6883 Rhonda Avenue (1575 West) with her 15-year-old grandson when the fire started early Sunday. Both were able to escape, though one of two dogs were killed.
It is believed the fire was sparked in a downstairs family room when a bottle of nail polish remover was spilled, coming into contact with a smoldering cigarette. Considering the presence of oxygen tanks Frankie Foutz relied on to treat her lung disease, VanHuizen believed the incident ended relatively well.
"The fire put itself out, there was no water damage," he said. "There was enough oxygen to level this whole house. ... She was in very, very good spirits."
But Monday evening, Frankie Foutz began to complain of "the worst headache she'd had in her life," VanHuizen said. She sat down and started acting as though she might vomit, prompting a call to paramedics.
"Really a tough bird," she was laughing and joking with them as they prepared to transport her to the hospital. They were en route when Van Huizen was informed his mother's heart had stopped.
Efforts were made to revive her for nearly 30 minutes. She passed away at 8:36 p.m.
"Last night was a complete surprise for me," VanHuizen said. "In my eyes, she still had a long way to go. She was a firecracker."
Tuesday, the home's exterior looked mostly perfect and unmarred with a small memorial of candles and flowers resting on a bench in front of the brick building. VanHuizen said the entire neighborhood rallied around Frankie Foutz and shared in the sorrow of her loss.
"She's been a real fixture in this neighborhood," he said. "She's been here 40 years. She's got a lot of friends. She was very giving, very loving."
After the fire, his mother had been her typical, feisty self. Refusing to submit to an on-camera interview because of the state her hair was in, she kidded VanHuizen, telling him he had a "fat face" on TV. She also met with representatives from Utah Disaster Kleenup and her insurance company Monday and told them her plans for the restoration of her home.
"She appeared to be healthy and well and great, not concerned about her house," VanHuizen said. "She felt really at ease the last few days."
Still, he knew his mother well enough to know that if she had been in pain, she would have kept it to herself. He said her heart had been broken since his father died in an accident while loading a trailer in front of the home July 15, 1997.
"Since my Dad died, I've seen what she's gone through," he said, explaining that his mother wouldn't date or pursue other relationships. "She had that much of a connection with him. It's unreal."
Sunday would have been Frankie and Johnny Foutz's 40th wedding anniversary. The circumstances surrounding the fire and the way his mother survived, only to die close to two days later, strike VanHuizen as strange and inexplicable.
"Who knows what the real truth is?" he said. "I've tried to figure the whole thing out and I can't. ... I think that she was called home and this is a celebration we're going to have."