CONCEPTION BAY SOUTH, N.L. - Edward 'Kip' Malone says he has been dogged by the "mystery" of what ever happened to two young girls he rescued from a house fire in St. John's, N.L. in 1951, only to find the answer living right next door some 65 years later.
After about four decades working in Ontario, 77-year-old Malone returned to Newfoundland this fall to retire in Conception Bay South, about a half-hour's drive from his native St. John's.
A week and a half after moving in to their new home, the Malones were welcomed by their next-door neighbour, Margaret Fowler, with packages of frozen fish. Malone — nicknamed 'Kip' for his taste for kippered herring — discovered that he and Fowler hailed from the same part of St. John's, in fact, he had an interesting story about the street he grew up on.
On Dec. 20, 1951, Malone's mother sent her 12-year-old son to the store to get some butter.
Malone walked past a row of what he described as three-storey, "cardboard" houses, when he heard the sound of a panicked voice coming from above.
"Save the children!" Malone recalls the woman screaming from the top floor of a blazing, smoke filled house.
Malone says he ran up the stairs and grabbed a frightened five-year-old girl, who refused to leave without her sister. He waded through the haze into another room where he swept his arm under the bed to find a three-year-old girl "hiding away from it all," as Malone remembers it, and hauled the sisters outside.
When Malone returned home, his mother chided him for taking so long to complete a simple chore until he told her what had happened.
For six and a half decades, Malone says his story didn't have an ending.
"It was always a mystery to me what became of (the girls)," Malone said in a phone interview. "I had never laid eyes on these people since."
Listening to Malone, Fowler said she got goosebumps. She said in an interview that she reached over to give Malone a hug and squeeze his hand.
"I was that little girl," Fowler told him. "I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for you."
At 70, Fowler has four children and six grandchildren. She chokes up imagining all of that having been wiped away had it not been for a boy the same age as her 12-year-old grandson.
Fowler and her sister, Barbara Earle — the little girl who hid under the bed during the fire — both see their reunion with Malone as an act of "divine intervention."
"I have this living, breathing angel," says Earle, a grandmother of two. "This wonderful little boy ... put his own life at risk so I could have the wonderful live I have."
Both Fowler and Earle have little recollection of the fire, nor the boy who hoisted them to safety all those years ago.
Fowler laments that Malone's act of bravery has gone unrecognized for so long, but she's glad he finally got the closure he's been looking for.
Malone, however, is quick to brush off the notion of being called a "hero."
"They think I was hero for doing the whole thing, but I don’t think that way at all,” he says. "I think I just did what I was supposed to do ... The rewarding part of it (is) that they had a good life and they have families of their own."