Ava Robinson had always been friendly with her Riverhead High School classmate Claudette Tuttle. The two kept in touch through class reunions for more than three decades, and even took time to sit and share hot chocolate on a few occasions.
So when Ms. Tuttle lost her Aquebogue home and all her possession in a fire last Monday afternoon, Ms. Robinson knew she had to do something.
“I was sitting here thinking she’s in trouble now, so what can I do?” said Ms. Robinson, a retired computer teacher at Aquebogue Elementary School.
Ms. Robinson moved quickly. She’s already organized a donation drive for Ms. Tuttle, a former Riverhead school bus driver, to get her supplies she desperately needs.
“Anything anybody could do to help her would be wonderful,” Ms. Robinson said. Ms. Tuttle and her family don’t have space to fit clothing or household goods for the time being, but Ms. Robinson said monetary donations would help through their recovery.
Four or five people have already donated funds to Ms. Tuttle since the fire, Ms. Robinson said. Information on a donation drive has been posted to online message boards and Facebook. One man handed Ms. Robinsons an envelope full of cash to give to Ms. Tuttle, she said.
Ms. Tuttle is currently staying with her mother, whom she cares for, in the house next to the fire-ravaged property.
Before the fire, she would often feed stray cats outside and had many indoor pets — cats, two dogs and a puppy — that died in the fire, Ms. Robinson said.
Ms. Robinson said she “can’t imagine” what her classmate is going through.
“I just felt so bad,” she said.
As she walked outside the remains of her house last Wednesday afternoon, Ms. Tuttle said she was “devastated” by the fire, but added she didn’t want to talk about the incident further, as she was still recovering.
Checks can be made out to Claudette Tuttle, and sent to PO Box 76, Aquebogue, NY 11931.
Correction: The victim’s name was originally incorrectly stated as Claudette Tuthill. The woman’s correct name is Claudette Tuttle.