Centenarian Strawberry Queen Survives Fire at Adult Foster Home

After a fire at an adult foster home was under control, smoke rises from what remains of the structure. Photos provided by Lebanon Fire District

In the early morning of May 19, the Lebanon Fire District responded to a fire at Joella’s Manor House, an adult foster care home, which was already engulfed in flame upon arrival.

Two residents, as well as owners Errol Krosman and Garry Browning, had already evacuated, though one resident was still inside the house. The victim was removed from the structure and taken to the Lebanon Community Hospital, where they tragically passed away due to smoke inhalation. Surviving residents were taken to The Oaks at Lebanon Retirement and Assisted Living for assessment and temporary shelter.

A 2023 photo shows Ruth Lenox sitting inside Joella’s Manor House and showing off her gown from when she was Strawberry Queen in 1941. File Photo

One of the evacuated residents was Ruth Lenox. Lenox, who turns 101 on June 7, had only been living at the Manor House for about a year and a half, according to her sister, Betty Adams.

“She’s a very brave lady, she’s always been that way,” Adams said. “She’s always been very active and was in her own home until her 90s. (Krosman and Browning) were very, very good to her, and the home was very interesting with lovely antiques. (Ruth) enjoyed sitting out on their patio and they had a koi pond, where she loved to watch the koi.”

Adams said that she got a call around 1:30 a.m. letting her know that there had been a fire but that Ruth was alright and that she had been taken to The Oaks with the other surviving residents.

“We went over there and she was sitting up in a wheelchair, wrapped in blankets, but she was doing very well for 100, 101 in June,” Adams said.

Lenox was evaluated by nurses at The Oaks, but only had a few scrapes from being dragged out of the house by her ankles, Adams explained.

“The only comment (Ruth) made was, ‘It was a little cold,’” Adams said. “Laying on the grass for a little while before a neighbor gathered blankets and wrapped them (up) and wheeled them over to The Oaks, who were just wonderful to them.”

A blaze consumes Joella’s Manor during the early morning hours of May 19.

Adams said that Lenox, who is the oldest surviving Strawberry Festival Queen, wants to attend this year’s festivities, specifically hoping to see the parade and watch the crowning of the new Strawberry Queen.

Lenox has been placed at a home in the countryside with a pond and patio, and a dog to keep her company.

Another structure across the street caught fire, as well, from embers being blown across the street, but the crew was able to extinguish the secondary fire quickly before returning to the foster home where it took several more hours to fully put out the initial fire.

As a second-alarm fire, multiple fire departments assisted the LFD in extinguishing the fire including those from Albany, Corvallis, Harrisburg, Sweet Home and Tangent.