Grove City Christian School is dealing with the loss of two students and a staff member.
Billi Romans, 51, and her two children Ami, 16, and Caleb, 12, died on April 6 when their home in Madison County caught fire. Billi worked as a receptionist at Grove City Christian School. Ami was a sophomore and Caleb was in the sixth grade.
“Our faith is seeing us through this difficult time,” said School Administrator Joyce Schneider. “They are all in a better place.”
On April 7, school administrators decided to hold chapel for the students. In addition, they brought in grief counselors and the Grove City Church of the Nazarene pastoral staff.
“We talked about why things like this happen,” said Schneider. “We talked about suffering and questioning events such as these—even Jesus questioned the way things were.”
Billi had been a receptionist with the school for seven years.
“The church and this school was her life,” Schneider remarked. “Billi was our number one fan.”
Schneider said Romans was the face everyone was greeted with when they came to the school. She gave tours of the church and school to people interested in enrollment. She was also in the church choir and a member of the praise and worship team.
Both the children were active in school events. Ami played volleyball, basketball and softball. She was also involved in the 4-H Club, where she and her horse would win ribbons at the Franklin County Fair. Caleb was in the sixth grade and was involved in football, basketball and baseball.
“They all loved sports,” said Schneider. “They especially loved the Buckeyes and the Steelers.”
The Romans family moved to Madison County in September. They formerly lived on the westside of Columbus.
On April 6 at 12:08 a.m. the Madison County Sheriff’s Office received a report of the fire at 4415 Lilly Chapel-Opossum Run Road. The house is approximately five miles south of West Jefferson, near the Franklin County line. Emergency responders said the home was fully engulfed in flames upon arrival.
Peter Romans, 47, father and husband of the victims, escaped. According to Madison County Sheriff James Sabin, he ran to a neighbor’s house for help, where he collapsed on the porch. Peter was treated and released from the Ohio State University Hospital for smoke inhalation and minor burns.
Ten agencies responded to the fire: Jefferson Township Fire, London Fire, Tri-County Fire, Madison County EMS, Jackson Township Fire, Central Township Fire, Pleasant Valley Fire, Prairie Township Fire, Pleasant Township Fire and Sterling Joint Medical District.
The home is considered a complete loss. The victims were transported to the Montgomery County Morgue, per Dr. James Kaehr, the Madison County coroner.
The Division of State Fire Marshal (SFM) is conducting the investigation. They say it will be extensive and timely. The SFM report says the fire appears to have originated in a carport. Collected fire debris was taken to the SFM Forensic Laboratory for analysis. Investigators also plan to interview witnesses and Peter. Smoke detectors were present in the home but were not activated.
Schneider said she spoke with Peter the day following the fire.
“Pete is doing better than most people would do in this situation,” she said. “He is depending on his faith and taking it one minute at a time.”
The surviving family member is also active in the church. He has coached sports in the Grove City community.
Schneider said Billi Romans should be remembered for her sense of humor and her faith.
“She loved the Lord with all her heart and soul. She served him every day of her life. She loved her family dearly.”
Schneider also added, “We will miss her and her children so much. She made us laugh every single day.”
Classes will be cancelled the day of the funerals. The school has set up a memorial account for the Romans family. If you are interested in donating, contact the school at 614-875-3000.