Tragedy strikes former DLHS student

Sue Kraft, Lifestyles Editor
This family photo, provided by Pat Dettling, shows Lilly Ann Reasor-Thompson and husband David with children (left to right, from back): Tristan, 10; Brendan, 6; Wyatt, 15 months; Leviticus, 3; Judseah, 8; and David, Jr., 4. A New Years Day fire claimed the life of David and four of the children, Tristan, David, Jr., Leviticus and Wyatt.

Former Devils Lake resident Lilly Ann Reasor-Thompson had been living in Redmond, WA, for a number of years, but was planning a trip back to North Dakota this summer to visit her former foster parents, Dave and Pat Dettling.

Unfortunately, life doesn't always go as planned.

Reasor was struck with unbelievable tragedy on New Year's Day, when a fire claimed the life of her husband and children.

Her former foster sister, Christie (Dettling) Axness of Fargo, said that even though Reasor moved from North Dakota shortly after graduating from Devils Lake High School in 1997, she kept in contact with the family.

“Lilly's childhood had been rough, but she had managed to get her life on the right path and was now married and had three wonderful boys and three terrific step-children,” she said. “2011 appeared to be the brightest year yet, filled with hope and promise.”

An early morning fire on Jan. 1 shattered those dreams.

“The apartment that the Reasors lived in had caught on fire,” Axness said. “It was an old wood-framed apartment building that burned hotly and quickly. The snow and ice melted off the nearby vehicles from the intensity of the fire.”

She said Reasor woke up during the fire, about 2:30 a.m., and found the fire extinguisher, but in the darkness couldn't figure out how to use it.

“Panicked, she screamed to wake the residents of the building to alert them of the danger,” she said. “Unfortunately she couldn't save her own family.”

Axness said others came to help, breaking out the living room windows, where the boys were reported to be sleeping, however the smoke was so thick and the fire so hot that they could not get in.

“As Lilly Ann screamed and tried to run back in the building she suffered from smoke inhalation,” Axness said. “She had to be restrained and eventually sedated.”

Perishing in the fire were her husband, David Thompson, 32, her biological children, David, Jr., 6, Leviticus, 4, and Wyatt, 2, and her step-son Tristan, 8. The other two step-children are currently living with their biological mother in Colorado.

“Lilly was a loving mother, wife and friend who is heartbroken by this terrible tragedy,” Axness said.

The road to Redmond, Washington

Lilly Ann Reasor came to the Lake Region in 1996 as a foster child from Williston, ND. She was 17 at the time and placed with Devils Lake residents Dave and Patricia Dettling.

“Lilly had a tremendously difficult life,” recalled Pat Dettling. “She was in foster care for several years. She was a rebellious teenager.”

The Dettlings, however, welcomed her with open arms and she soon warmed up to the family.

“After about a week, she was sitting on the counter crying,” Dettling said. “She said, 'I wanted to hate you, I wanted to hate Devils Lake, but I love you guys.'”

In fact, Dettling noted, when Reasor's sister was later placed in foster care, she made sure that her little sister was also placed with the Dettlings.

“I know she appreciated us,” she said.

Reasor's time with the Dettlings was brief, as she turned 18 the following April and was removed from the home — even though she wouldn't graduate from high school for another month.

“Back in those days at 18 you couldn't stay in foster care, you had to leave,” Dettling explained.

She said that because they had another foster child in the home, they weren't allowed to let other adults stay there and since Reasor was 18 she was considered an adult.

The Dettlings helped Reasor find an apartment in Devils Lake and get settled on her own. They later attended her graduation party there.

Dettling said Reasor stayed in North Dakota for a year or so before moving to Colorado to be closer to her grandmother and aunt. When her aunt died in a car accident and her grandmother moved to Florida, Reasor had little reason to stay in Colorado and decided to move to Washington.

She was traveling with husband, David, whom she met in Colorado.

The two had three children, along with David's three children from a previous marriage, making them a family of eight. They were living in Redmond, WA, and life seemed to be looking up for the family. Her oldest biological child had just started kindergarten.

Dettling said she stayed in contact with Reasor over the years and had remained a part of her life.

“She still calls us 'mom and dad,'” Dettling said.

“She called often for advice on how to raise her kids, she tried to be a good mom,” Dettling added. “She was just so proud of her kids.”

Dettling said she was communicating with Reasor over the internet the day of the fire.

“I was on Facebook and we started messaging back and forth,” Dettling said. “I wished her a happy new year and she told me her husband had just passed his test to become a fireman.”

Reasor also told Dettling that the family was saving money for a trip to Devils Lake this summer, so she could show them her home and introduce her children to her “parents.”

It wasn't until a week later that Dettling learned of the tragic fire.

“There were people trying to contact me on Facebook, but I didn't know them, so I rejected it,” she said.

She said her daughter was communicating with a mutual friend and learned of the tragic fire, then passed the information on to her mother.

“My husband and I have invited her to come home and move back,” she said. “The funerals are today (Thursday) in Colorado, she has to get through that, then she'll make the decision to come back to North Dakota or not.”

A fund has been set up to help with the funeral expenses for the five Thompsons who perished in the fire. Donations can be sent to: The Lilly Reasor Fund, c/o Assembly of God, PO Box 1766, Williston, ND 58801 or call the Assembly of God in Williston at (701) 572-5042.