SANTA ROSA (AP) – In the 55 years they were married, Carmen Caldentey Berriz had spent countless hours in her husband Armando’s arms.
In his arms was where the 75-year-old took her last breath on Monday, as he held her afloat in a swimming pool as walls of fire burned around them, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Carmen had known Armando was the one since she was 12, and the two dated for years before marrying in 1962. By the time Carmen turned 75, their family had grown to include two daughters, a son, their children’s spouses and seven grandchildren.
The Berrizes were three days into a vacation at a Santa Rosa rental house with family when son-in-law Luis Ocon woke early Monday morning and saw the fire begin to overtake the neighborhood.
They fled to their cars.
Luis, Monica Ocon, and their daughter made it through the thick smoke and flames and pulled over, watching for Carmen and Armando’s car to emerge behind them. It never came.
Armando Berriz’s car had gotten stuck on a fallen tree. He told his wife they had to run back to the house to take shelter in the backyard pool.
As flames melted the chaise lounges a few feet away, Carmen clung to Armando, who kept them both afloat by hanging onto the brick sides of the pool.
Armando Berriz held on for hours, even as the brick burned his hands, even as his wife stopped breathing. He let go only after the flames had burned out, laying Carmen on the steps of the pool with her arms carefully crossed over her chest.
He walked 2 miles to find firefighters.
“Everything they did was as a team,” daughter Monica Ocon said. “They had this bond and this strength that literally lasted a lifetime.”
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.