Karen Aycock was a homebody.
A roofer until a back injury ended her career, Aycock, 56, lived a quiet, and for the most part solitary, life in the Coffey Park home she’d inherited from her parents.
The Santa Rosa High School alumna was caring and helpful, and as a bonus from her years in the construction trades, extremely handy.
“She taught me how to change oil,” a niece, Victoria Rilling, recounted to a reporter shortly after the firestorm. “She taught me how to hold a hammer properly.”
Though kindhearted, Aycock found as she aged that she dealt far better with animals than with people.
She was a cat person, big time. She had several feline pets, and she’d go to great lengths to look after and feed feral cats in the neighborhood, and to help assure that they were spayed and neutered so that their numbers wouldn’t grow.
Aycock lived with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, conditions that contributed to her general isolation from other people.
It appears that the last anyone heard from her was on the Saturday before the Tubbs fire roared into Sonoma County from near Calistoga the night of Sunday, Oct. 8. She had shared routine messages with Facebook friends.
With the destruction of Coffey Park, relatives became frantic to find Aycock. A niece, Jeanette Scroggins, Rilling’s sister, went to the ashes of the house on Dogwood Drive and found no sign of Aycock.
The sisters spent several terrified days phoning authorities and shelters, and pleading on social media for help to find their aunt.
Heartbreak came Oct. 12, when Scroggins returned to the site on Dogwood Drive and found, amid debris on the side of the house farthest from where the front door had been, remains later confirmed to be those of Aycock.
Niece Rilling said through her pain that she would be forever grateful Sonoma County authorities for their efforts to locate her aunt through the four days she was missing.
“They didn’t give up,” she said. “Their perseverance is phenomenal.”
The Press Democrat remembers the 40 lives lost in the North Bay fires. Click here for more of the stories.