Fire, police and rescue personnel responded to the home of Martha Russell Tuesday on U.S. 141 in the Town of Amberg. Russell and two of her daughters escaped the blaze; another daughter, 2-year-old Lee-Ann Arendt, did not. The cause of the fire is under investigation. A memorial fund has been set up. Special to the EagleHerald/Iron Mountain Daily Press
Fire, police and rescue personnel responded to the home of Martha Russell Tuesday on U.S. 141 in the Town of Amberg. Russell and two of her daughters escaped the blaze; another daughter, 2-year-old Lee-Ann Arendt, did not. The cause of the fire is under investigation. A memorial fund has been set up. Special to the EagleHerald/Iron Mountain Daily Press
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TOWN OF AMBERG - Instead of making Thanksgiving meal plans for their family Wednesday afternoon, Martha Russell and Paul Arendt, of the Town of Amberg, were writing an obituary for their 2-year-old daughter.

Lee-Ann Arendt died as the result of a fire at 12:41 p.m. Tuesday in her home on U.S. 141. Lee-Ann's mother and sisters, Samantha and Emma, escaped the fire without injury. Numerous police, fire and rescue units were on the scene but the force of the blaze was too strong to save the youngster.

Marinette County Coroner George Smith traveled to Green Bay Wednesday where an autopsy was performed to make a positive identification. Afterward, Smith confirmed the suspicions that the child was Arendt. He also said evidence pointed to injuries consistent with a fire death and that no foul play is suspected.

Both the Marinette County Sheriff's Department and the state Fire Marshal are investigating where and how the fire started in the home.

Almost immediately a benefit account was set up for Martha Russell at Bank North by her employers, Mark and Amy Shaffer.

"We were trying to figure out what we could do, and that's the only thing I figured we could do because their need is so great," Amy Shaffer said. "There's just so much going on."

Russell worked as the head cook for the Shaffers for six years at the Shaffer Park Resort, Motels and Supper Club in Crivitz. This Sunday was to be her last day at work for the season. Amy Shaffer said Paul Arendt, who has a teenage daughter living with him, is also currently unemployed.

"Not only have they lost their house and they're little one, but they're both going to be out of work now," Shaffer said. "It's huge, they need some serious help."

Lee-Ann's parents shared a statement about their daughter in her obituary saying, "Lee-Ann was a happy, joy-filled young girl and very energetic. She loved running around and playing Hide & Seek and she also loved lying next to her daddy. She will be forever missed."

In addition to her parents and siblings, Lee-Ann is survived by her paternal grandfather, Eugene; and maternal grandparents, Linda and Walter Russell.

Family and friends may call Monday from 5 p.m. until the time of the service at 6 p.m. at the Messar-Roubal Funeral Home. Burial will be in the Amberg Cemetery.