Columbia man who died in trailer fire was beloved landlord

Thursday, June 25, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
Boone County medical examiners and law enforcement officials investigate the scene of a fire that occurred in a trailer on Ray Lea Lane in Columbia early Wednesday morning.

COLUMBIA — Tom Wright said John Shettlesworth was the best landlord he ever had.


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Wright had rented his trailer and lot on East Missouri 163 from Shettlesworth, 57, for eight years but knew him for 25.

Despite back and hip problems, Shettlesworth was outgoing and loved to travel, Wright said. He went to rock concerts with his son. He wanted to see the world.

"He's the kind of individual we would all love to be," Wright said. "He's going to be missed."

On Wednesday morning, the Boone County Fire Protection District responded to a 6:52 a.m. 911 call at 7101 Ray Lea Lane, the location of Shettlesworth's trailer.

Heavy smoke and flames kept the 26 responding firefighters from reaching Shettlesworth until the fire was extinguished. He was found dead in his living room, and a dog was found dead in a bedroom, said Gale Blomenkamp, Boone County Fire Protection District division chief.

Homer Klippel is another of Shettlesworth's renters. Klippel rents the lot just west of Shettlesworth's trailer and said his landlord lived there for about eight months during a divorce. Klippel has known him for 14 years and said he was "one hell of a good friend."

Klippel said he helped Shettlesworth with lawn care on the properties he owned. Wright, too, would check in on Shettlesworth because of his hip and back troubles.

Wright noted that the man loved to wear tie-dyed clothing, and Klippel said there was one trip the "hippie from the '60s" never got to take.

"His biggest dream was to see Alaska," Klippel said. "And I really wished he made that trip."

When Shettlesworth called 911 Wednesday morning, he told dispatchers he was unable to get out of his burning home because his legs would not work. Smoke detectors could be heard in the background, dispatchers said.

Firefighters were on the scene seven minutes later, Blomenkamp said, but the trailer was a total loss by the time the fire was put out.

This is Missouri's 36th fatal fire recorded this year by the U.S. Fire Administration and the second fatal fire this month in Columbia. "The most recent one before that was in 2004," Blomenkamp said.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, Blomenkamp said, and the Fire District is conducting an investigation.

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Beth Houseman June 25, 2009 | 10:18 a.m.

So, so sad....I know a man of his character, according to all that knew him, God was with him and his little dog and took then safely to Heaven. I think it would be a very nice thing for someone to take their remaining ashes to Alaska and sprinkle them across the land, the one place he so wanted to see. God Bless him, his little dog and his remaining family and friends. :'(

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