Fire victim dedicated life to special needs adults
MARTIN, Tenn. - On Friday afternoon, Phyllis Allen was out enjoying a Mexican lunch. It once seemed an overwhelming task for the developmentally disabled woman. Now, it is something she enjoys, thanks to many similar outings with her friend, Lola Holland.
"I had a good life with her," Allen said, adding the pair also went to dances and sang church music together.
Last Friday, Holland, 54, died in a fire at her Union City home. Neighbors say Holland died trying to save her brother, Henry 'Sonny' Jackson, Jr. Jackson, 59, had been confined to a wheelchair since suffering a stroke. Holland was able to bring her mother, Mary Jackson, 76, to safety but the woman died the following night.
Investigators say the fire that destroyed the family's home was not suspicious, only tragic.
Holland worked at what has now become St. John's Community Services for the past 24 years. It is where she first met Allen.
Sandra Johnson was Holland's supervisor and lovingly recalled her dedication on Friday, "She really liked the people she worked with, the people she helped, she loved being here."
Sharon McMullen worked side by side with Holland for 7 years and says she learned a lot, "You watched her, observed her, absorbed her and you became a better person."
It is why McMullen said she was not surprised when she learned of her friend's final act- rushing back into her burning home to save her brother. Some had said Lola Holland wasn't thinking, McMullen believes otherwise.
"She was thinking the way she always thought, somebody else, somebody else, what can I do for somebody else?" she said of her Jackson.
"That was the way she lived. She lived helping others and that's the way she died, helping others," Johnson added.
Phyllis Allen was one of dozens to receive a helping hand from Holland over the years and said she was not sure what she would do without her.
"I want to cry so bad. Me and her are close, like a sister, like a sister," she said.
Visitation for Lola Holland, her brother and mother will be Friday evening from 6 to 8 at Powerhouse Ministries in Union City, Tennessee. Services for all three will be held Saturday morning at 11 at St. John #3 Missionary Baptist Church in Tiptonville.