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Saturday, October 17, 2009

 

$3,300,000 Lottery Winner Dies in Fire

Roger D. Grandy was killed in a fire at his home Wednesday.

Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News


Victim of fatal fire identified

Jay Tokasz and Gene Warner

NEWS STAFF REPORTERS

Updated: October 15, 2009, 1:11 PM / 

 

Lancaster police have identified the man found dead inside a house destroyed by fire Wednesday morning as Roger D. Grandy, the homeowner and sole resident.

An investigation into the cause of the blaze at 304 Pleasant View Drive, across the street from the transportation department of Lancaster Central School District, is continuing, police said.

The findings of an autopsy this morning confirmed what friends and neighbors of Grandy had suspected -- that the 51-year-old Lottery winner was caught inside the inferno.

On Pleasant View Drive, Grandy was considered a model neighbor and all-around good guy.

Fellow employees at the Clarion Hotel on Transit Road knew Grandy as a hard-working airport shuttle driver who treated them as family, celebrating their birthdays with cakes and singing.

Grandy lived an unassuming life for a man who had won $3.3 million in the Nov. 16, 1996, Lotto drawing. He was one of three winners of a jackpot worth $10 million, according to state lottery officials.

Friends said Grandy never spent lavishly and enjoyed working.

"He was very shy about letting anyone know about [his lottery windfall]," said Jody Schilling, whose parents live next door to the west of Grandy. "It was the first time he ever played. He never changed his lifestyle. He lived like an everyday, normal person."

Grandy's body was found in the back of the ranch house, in what was believed to be a living room.

"We don't know if he was trying to get out," Lancaster police Capt. Timothy R. Murphy said.

Grandy's pickup truck was still in the garage, and Wednesday was a regular day off from his job at the hotel.

Neighbors reported the blaze at 6:47 a.m.

Mike Diegelman, who lives next door, said that Grandy closed the garage door only when he was away from the house, and when Diegelman saw the door open, he ran into the garage and tried to alert Grandy by sounding the horn of the pickup.

"There was so much smoke, I had to crawl out of there," said Diegelman, who couldn't get into the house.

Diegelman also threw a log through a bedroom window and sprayed water inside to see if Grandy would respond.

"I thought beeping the horn would wake him up and he'd run out," Diegelman said. "It was horrible. It was the worst thing I've ever experienced, because I knew he was in there."

Lancaster police Lt. John Robinson also tried to get into the structure but was beaten back by flames and smoke, Murphy said.

Friends said Grandy was a smoker and regularly used a wood-burning fireplace in the colder months.

The devastating blaze left furniture in Grandy's home burned beyond recognition and melted the siding of a neighboring house.

The fire could have been smoldering inside long before neighbors noticed flames shooting from the center of the house, Murphy said.

Debra Mazurek, a neighbor, was taken to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Amherst for smoke inhalation, according to Schilling, her daughter.

Grandy purchased the house in 2000, according to Erie County clerk's office records, and was considered a friendly, easy going neighbor.

Lottery officials said Grandy took his $3.3 winnings in annual payments.

"You would have never guessed," said Jenna Schweitzer, front office manager of the Clarion Hotel. "He collected bottles and cans and returned them."

Schweitzer said Grandy confided in her several years ago about his lottery winnings, but didn't talk about it openly.

"It didn't seem like something that was that important to him," she said.

Grandy was a conscientious employee who showed up early for his 6 a.m. shift start and "was always in good spirits."

"He was always here. He was a dedicated employee, here for 40 hours a week and then some," Schweitzer said.

Grandy remembered his co-workers' birthdays by bringing in their favorite cakes and singing to them, and at Christmas time he would bring in gifts.

"He's like family," Schweitzer said. "We're very, very shook up."

Neighbors were shaken, as well.

Grandy regularly checked on Schilling's father, James Mazurek, who had suffered a stroke.

He also kept a close watch on neighbors' homes when they traveled.

"He loved the neighborhood," Schilling said.


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