Community remembers 93-year-old veteran killed in fire - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

Community remembers 93-year-old veteran killed in fire

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SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) -

A 93-year-old father, WWII veteran and former minister died Wednesday morning in a mobile home fire. 

Leon Hackett was killed in the fire overnight at his mobile home on Highway 135, between Arp and Troup. Fire marshals say his death is the first fire-related death in Smith County this year. 

One of Leon Hackett's grandchildren says a greater man never lived. Hackett recently visited his family in California where five generations of the Hackett family took a photograph together. 

"We'll always remember him being there to help someone. Whoever needed help, he was there," says Judith Osborn, Hackett's nurse for more than eight years. 

"They were just family. They were just like another mom and dad to me. After this many years, it doesn't matter that you're not supposed to get close to your patients, you can't help it. It's like losing another set of parents for me," Osborn says. 

She remembers telling Hackett goodnight. She says she woke up to a phone call from one of his neighbors, "She said, 'Dad's in that house and it's burning and they haven't found him.' You expect to find them one day at his age but not like this." 

Hackett's family lives all over the United States but they have deep ties to East Texas. 

Osborn says Hackett's parents formed one of the first African American schools in Smith County. 

After serving in WWII and becoming a barber, Leon Hackett settled back down in East Texas. He was a part time preacher at Sunshine Baptist Church in Tyler. 

"He gave inspiration to all of us. All of us that went into his home, we got inspired because he would pray for us, pray for our family members. If someone was sick he would pray for them. He was just a good all around neighbor ... The kind you really wanted," Osborn says. 

Hackett's wife passed away in October. They were married for more than 50 years. 

Fire marshals say are still trying to find out how the fire started inside Hackett's home.

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