Fire victim was ‘just a joy to be around’

WWNY Fire victim was ‘just a joy to be around’

CANTON, N.Y. (WWNY) - One of the people killed in last weekend’s fire in Pierrepont was remembered Thursday as “just a joy to be around.”

Lena Gollinger, 62, and her husband Rick, 64, died after being trapped in their burning home on County Route 24 Sunday night. Although both people were rescued, their injuries proved to be too severe to survive. Both died at a Syracuse hospital.

Thursday, Canton Central School superintendent Ron Burke remembered Lena as “just a joy to be around.”

Lena Gollinger was a 30 year employee of the school district, working in food service.

Burke told 7 News he got to know Lena better over the last year as the district coped with the COVID-19 pandemic, and food was prepared for delivery to students.

“She always had a smile on her face, it was just remarkable,” he said. “It was that can-do attitude. She just made everybody feel comfortable.”

For the last couple of years, Lena worked in the district’s elementary school; before that, the high school. She had a tight knit circle of friends in food service, Burke said.

“Just a joy to be around, even on those really rough days,” he said.

Burke is a volunteer firefighter, and heard the call for the fire go out Sunday night, but didn’t put the address and the name together until the next morning.

“As I was getting out of the shower I ran the address through in my head one more time and I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s Lena.’”

Burke said Lena “was planning on retiring in June. No formal letter, but she had certainly talked about it.

“You just never know.”

Funeral arrangements for Rick and Lena Gollinger are with O’Leary Funeral Service in Canton.

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