The North Bend Eagle


House fire in North Bend
Firefighters assess the damage after the blaze had been put out Saturday evening. Units from Morse Bluff and Fremont Rural assisted the NBVFD.

House fire causes death of centenarian, philanthropist

by Nathan Arneal
Published 12/4/13

Firefighters were called to the home of Sylvia Slavik Saturday evening after smoke was seen coming from her home at the corner of 11th and Walnut streets in North Bend.

Slavik, age 101, lived alone in the one-story brick house. Rescuers found Slavik near the entrance to the house when they arrived. After a lengthy attempt at resuscitation on the scene, she was pronounced dead.

Jim Rothanzl, a neighbor of Slavik’s, had been over at her house a few hours earlier. He often helped her with small chores around the house.

Sylvia SlavikSlavik

“She called up and said I have to come get her mail and put her garbage out by the curb because the guy would come tomorrow morning to pick up the garbage,” Rothanzl said. “So I came and got her mail and brought it over here. She said, ‘I’m going to sit down and make myself some supper and go to bed.’”

Rothanzl left Slavik’s home around 4:15 p.m.

Shortly thereafter, another neighbor, Jenna Saalfeld, was on her way home from work when she noticed a thick haze hanging in the air. As she got closer, she saw smoke coming from Slavik’s house. She called 911 at 5:53 p.m.

When rescue workers arrived on the scene and broke down the door to her house, they found Slavik unconscious. Witnesses said that rescuers spent about 20 minutes trying to revive Slavik.

Dodge County Sheriff Steve Hespen said no autopsy was performed, but smoke inhalation was the likely cause of death. Evidence points to her death occurring as a result of the fire and not prior to it, Hespen said. As of press time, the cause of the fire was still under investigation.

Rothanzl said Slavik’s son Edwin, who lives in Texas, had been in North Bend visiting his mother for Thanksgiving. He left for home Friday, the day before the fire broke out.

In recent years, Slavik had become known as generous philanthropist. She donated funds that paid for the most recent statue in the North Bend Veterans Park, which depicts a soldier kneeling to check the dog tags on a makeshift combat grave. Slavik donated the money in memory of her late husband, Henry.

“I’ll be 100 years old,” Sylvia Slavik told the Eagle when the statue was placed in 2012, “so I’d better do something for everyone before I pass away.”

Around Memorial Day of this year, Slavik and her son Edwin donated a life-size statue of an angel to the Schuyler cemetery where Henry Slavik is buried.

Rothanzl, the helpful neighbor, said there’s still one more chore he’d like to take care of for Slavik.

“She has a cat in there,” he said. “She always wanted for me to take care of the cat if something happened to her. Well, nobody seems to know where the cat is.”

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