Linda Tunis sold her condo outside West Palm Beach, Florida, and moved to Santa Rosa earlier this year to be near her daughter.
The two were tight. They would see each other three to four times a week and talked on the phone every day. They often went to concerts and theater shows and traveled together, including to Las Vegas, which they’d visited a half dozen of times over the past few years, seeing productions including Jersey Boys and “The Beatles LOVE” performance by Cirque du Soleil.
In Sonoma County, the pair could be found at the monthly bingo events put on by the boisterous Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in Guerneville. It was her mother’s favorite bingo spot, said Jessica Tunis, 49.
“She loved to eat, drink and be merry,” she said. “We did a lot of that.”
Ten months after moving to Santa Rosa, Linda Tunis, 69, died in the Tubbs fire. She never made it out of her home in the Journey’s End mobile home park.
As flames enveloped the retirement community, her impulse that night was to call her daughter.
“She was trapped,” said Jessica Tunis, who begged her mom to break a window or find another way out after flames blocked the front and back doors of her home.
“She told me she was going to die,” Tunis said, recalling her mother’s last words before the call dropped.
Jessica Tunis said she wanted to run to her mother’s aid, but she lived across town in Rincon Valley, where she manages some senior housing units. She’d attempted for hours earlier that night to reach her mother on the phone after seeing a glow on Rincon Ridge, but she never expected the blaze to reach her mother’s doorstep.
The family searched hospitals and posted the woman’s picture on Facebook, holding out hope she’d be found alive. Days later, her son, Robert Tunis, 48, discovered her body among the charred remains.
Family was the most important thing to the single mother of two. In Hawaii in 1968, she married Edward Tunis, a Navy seaman — and Jessica and Robert’s father — but the couple divorced a couple of years later.
A Boston native, Tunis attended Brookline High School, where her two children later went to school. She attended Graham Junior College and then went on to earn an associate degree in medical records from Labouré College, a nursing and health care school. She spent three decades working as a registered health information technician at several hospitals, including Massachusetts General, where she retired in 2013.
While taking a trip with a friend to Honolulu in 1987, she saw an ad for a medical records job at a local hospital and on a whim decided to apply, her daughter said.
“She was very spontaneous,” Jessica Tunis said of her mother, who was planning to move back to Florida part time this winter. Her flight was scheduled for Oct. 21.
This story has been corrected to show Edward Tunis was a seaman in the US Navy, and that Linda Tunis attended a performance of “The Beatles LOVE” by Cirque du Soleil in one of her half-dozen visits to Las Vegas.