Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

BURNED IN HER MEMORY; What Would You Do If Your Daughter Died and Then a Fire Took Most of Her Treasures? Sandy Pope Went Digging

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

BURNED IN HER MEMORY; What Would You Do If Your Daughter Died and Then a Fire Took Most of Her Treasures? Sandy Pope Went Digging

Article excerpt

Byline: THOMAS LAKE

Tina Pope kept 11 cats, two dogs and a pet snake, and one day she bought two mice for the snake's dinner. But Tina felt sorry for them, just as she'd felt for the stray animals she found on the roadside, so she kept the mice as pets and named them Mork and Mindy.

Tina kept lots of other things in her trailer on the Northside, such as cat statues and unopened Barbie dolls and ballet shoes from when she was 8. She worked in her mother's flower shop, saving up to buy a farm for her animals, and she polished her '78 Trans Am until the black paint glowed.

She died in that car one clear February night. It was 2002, the anniversary of her grandfather's death, and she may have been driving home from a trip to his grave. The police said her blood-alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit when the Trans Am swerved off Florida 9A and hit a thick pine tree. She was not wearing a seat belt. She was 29.

Her mother fell to the floor when she heard the news. Sandy Pope was so dizzy with grief that she doesn't remember her daughter's funeral.

She couldn't save Tina, so she saved Tina's things.

She took in two cats and a dog and found a home for the others. She kept the Barbies, the cat statues, an old pink teddy bear and nearly 200 pairs of shoes. She kept almost everything.

Sandy stored boxes and bags of Tina's stuff in her bedroom in the Northside double-wide she shared with her other daughter, Nina, and Nina's two children.

Then most of it burned in a fire.

Two fires, actually. The first came on a cold afternoon last December, 10 days before Christmas, after Nina and the kids went to buy a tree. Firefighters believe it spread from the smoldering fireplace through the floor and into the walls. Flames tore into the roof, consumed all the presents and killed the family dog.

The second fire came two days later, after the insurance company ruled the home a total loss, and it licked through the few remaining items Nina had piled on her bed. Investigators never determined its cause.

After the smoke cleared, Sandy moved in with her mother in Southside. Nina and the kids moved into Tina's old trailer. …

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