Victim in Addison house fire helped connect teachers all over the world

Updated 1/30/2018 3:56 PM
  • A 76-year-old couple has been identified as victims in the Jan. 22 fire on the 700 block of Ellsworth Avenue in Addison.

      A 76-year-old couple has been identified as victims in the Jan. 22 fire on the 700 block of Ellsworth Avenue in Addison. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Authorities are still investigating the cause of last week's house fire in Addison that killed a 76-year-old couple.

DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgensen on Tuesday identified the victims as Richard Sebring and Janice Barnstable, both of the 700 block of Ellsworth Ave. He said the cause of their deaths is still under investigation.

Friends and neighbors have identified them as a married couple but Jorgensen said he has no legal documents to confirm that.

Peers identified Barnstable as a pioneer of the global classroom initiative that connected teachers all over the world.

"Janet was an incredible educator with projects that collaborated with schools all over the world," said Steve Sherman of the South African-base Living Maths program. "She was an edtech guru and contributed regularly to our international online community. She was respected and loved by ... an international collection of teachers who connected daily through (Skype)."

Teachers from as near as Oak Park and as far as Hungary and Australia flocked to a Google document to express their sadness.

"Janet was one of my dearest mentors I ever had concerning international school collaborations," wrote Reinhard Marx of Sundern, Germany.

Laima Ardaviciene, of Lithuania, wrote that Barnstable inspired her students to compete in a global website competition.

"Not only was she a good project manager but also a kind and hearty adviser," Ardaviciene wrote. "It was so important for her to connect as many countries as possible. With her open heart she was leading our world to Oneness."

Deputy Fire Chief Erik Kramer said the cause of the fire that killed Barnstable and Sebring is still listed as "undetermined" and under investigation.

"We are currently still working with Addison police and the Office of the State Fire Marshal," Kramer wrote in an email Tuesday afternoon.

Addison police did not immediately return a call.

Firefighters from the Addison Fire Protection District responded to the blaze around 2:20 a.m. Jan. 22. When they arrived, they found flames shooting from the single-story house. Fire officials said there were no working smoke detectors in the house.

The fire caused the roof to collapse, initially preventing firefighters from entering parts of the home. Rescue teams found the victims in a rear bedroom of the home, near the kitchen, where the fire is believed to have started.

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