Gay health care worker believed lost in inferno

Posted on 15 Mar 2007 at 8:45pm
By David Webb – The Rare Reporter

AIDS Services of Dallas officials remember caregiver who had just clocked out from work as “‘compassionate’



Marion Roberts is believed to have died in the massive fire that ravaged an Oak Lawn apartment complex. He phoned his sister to ask if he should try to jump to safety.

A gay AIDS Services of Dallas caregiver is believed to have died in the seven-alarm fire that devastated Harvey’s Racquet Club apartments in Oak Lawn late Sunday night.

A body discovered in the rubble on Monday is believed to be the remains of Marion Roberts, 41, who had worked at the Oak Cliff agency since March of 2003, according to Don Maison, executive director of the facility. The fire apparently started soon after Roberts arrived home from work, he said.

“He didn’t come to work on Monday,” Maison said. “His sister called me quite hysterical and said he had been in a fire. I asked how he was and she said, “‘I’m calling because we are trying to identify the body.’ That was how I learned. I just about dropped the phone.”

Maison said all of the employees and residents of the facility were shocked by the news because Roberts was so well regarded. Case managers went to all of the agency’s buildings to inform residents, and a moment of silence was observed.

“He was a wonderful caregiver dependable and level-headed,” Maison said.
“I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Sheila Dolezal, director of human resources, said he was one of ASD’s best employees.

The last time Roberts was heard from, he had made a call to his twin sister just after he realized the apartment complex was on fire, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Roberts, who had asthma, told his sister that he was having trouble breathing and asked her advice about jumping from his third-floor apartment. She left him on the phone with an 911 operator and drove to the site of the fire.

Roberts lived with a roommate, Philbrick Keith Grady, 49, but he was at work when the fire broke out.

As of late Wednesday, officials were still searching the rubble with cadaver dogs, and fire officials continued to search through the debris on Thursday.
Maria Chavez, a woman who lived near Roberts, is still missing also. Several people jumped to safety from the fire. Sixteen people were reported injured.

The cause of the fire, which spread rapidly through the 32-year-old complex, was not determined as of Thursday. Fire officials are asking anyone who has any information about how the fire started to call 214-670-4312.

The fire, which started after 11 p.m., damaged about a third of the 300 apartment units and caused about $3 million damage.

E-mail webb@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 16, 2007

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