‘Go ride your Harley and be with mom’: U.S. Army veteran dies in Middletown house fire

When it was apparent John Mobley wasn’t going to recover from his injuries, his sister leaned in and whispered, “Go ride your Harley and be with mom.”

John Mobley, 59, who had been a patient at Miami Valley Hospital since the Aug. 17 fire on Carroll Avenue in Middletown, died last week.

His sister, Lesley Terrell, 49, of Texas, was in the hospital when he was taken off life support. She described her brother as “a hippie” and a “free spirit.”

Mobley attended Middletown High School, served in the U.S. Army for eight years and was a laborer, his sister said.

Mobley became the second person to die in a Middletown fire this year. James “Butch” Gann, 71, died March 11 in a fire on Sixth Avenue. Gann was in a wheelchair and was unable to escape the fire, according to Middletown Fire Chief Paul Lolli.

There were no fire deaths in 2018 and two each in 2017 and 2016, according to Middletown fire officials.

MORE: Victim identified in deadly Middletown fire

Erin Baker, the other person injured in the Carroll Avenue fire, has been released from Miami Valley Hospital. Baker said she got out of the residence safely, then realized Mobley, who was on oxygen because of his stage 4 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), was still in his bedroom.

He was on fire when she pulled him out of the house, said Baker, who suffered smoke inhalation.

She served as Mobley’s caretaker for about 12 years and he was “like a father figure” to her 19-year-old son.

“He was a really wonderful man,” Baker said.

Deputy Chief Jeff Spaulding has not released the cause of the fire. He said when firefighters arrived at 2 a.m., flames were evident on the first floor and were shooting out the exterior. He believes the fire started in a back bedroom on the first floor.

He said at least one smoke detector was working in the house, and it alerted the residents.

Firefighters were on the scene for about five hours, and Middletown received mutual aid from Franklin, Monroe and Liberty Twp. firefighters and Franklin EMS.

A Middletown church has assisted Baker and her son. The Rev. Chuck Cotton, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, solicited household items for Baker, who has found another residence. The pastor called the response from the community “overwhelming.”

Mobley was divorced and has three children: Eric Helton, Tye Mobley and Billie Mobley. He also is survived by his father, Richard Mobley Sr., and siblings Richard Mobley Jr., Norman Mobley, Mary Mobley and Terrell.

He was preceded in death by his mother, Mary.

No funeral arrangements will be made.

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