NASD employees remember retired special service director who died in fire, cause still under investigation

Published 3:24 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2023

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NATCHEZ — State fire marshals are still investigating what caused a late Sunday night house fire that destroyed a Brookfield Drive home and claimed the life of a former Natchez-Adams School District employee.

The fire claimed the life of Dr. Ruby As-Sabor who retired after working at the NASD central office in the Braden Administration building on Homochitto Street as director of exceptional services for seven years ending in December 2021.

“She had a passion for students with disabilities and was a real advocate for those students and loved them all dearly,” said Public Engagement Director Tony Fields. The first thing that comes to mind when Fields remembers As-Sabor is her distinctive voice, he said.

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“She had a quiet and high-pitched voice,” he said. “She loved to hear me imitate her. It didn’t matter if she was upset or anything. Her voice was the same. If you got to know her and she got to know you, she referred to you as one of her babies. She was upbeat all the time and very positive. It’s been tough on the central office and across the district. She was very well-known and well-liked and had just retired. She had a warm smile and she wore that smile constantly.”

Like Fields, Ruth Anderson who worked with As-Sabor said she remembers her musical voice, “like tinkling bells,” and her sense of humor. She also remembers how dedicated she was to her family and to the children.

“I worked with her for about six years as the lead speech-language pathologist and we collaborated on many educational issues,” Anderson said.

“She was a big component of teamwork and together we were part of a dynamic team that got through a particularly challenging time during COVID,” Anderson said. “She promoted others in their leadership roles and she was the type of person who encouraged others to pursue their dreams.”

Renay Hogans also worked closely with As-Sabor in the special education department and was her sorority sister outside of work.

“She was a loving friendly person, an advocate for our teachers and a good friend,” she said. “She fought for our students and wanted them to succeed in every way and she worked hard to help them do that. Personally, she was my friend and my sorority sister. We would go out to lunch and sometimes dinner and I enjoyed her company.”

NASD deputy superintendent Zandra McDonald Green said she knew As-Sabor as a “fierce advocate for children,” but also comical.

“In the midst of difficult conversations, she could always lighten the mood but she was very professional,” Green said.  “I’ll always remember her calling everyone ‘baby.’ Although she used that term regularly, you knew she was sincere.”

When firefighters were dispatched to 128 Brookfield Drive at 10:59 p.m. Sunday, they arrived with the hope of saving the life of a woman trapped inside, said Natchez Fire Chief Robert Arrington.

The fire hydrant on the street was working fine, but four fire trucks filled the street to carry enough manpower to enter the burning home.

“Reason we had all three of our trucks out there is that we wanted to have extra manpower in hopes of saving a life,” Arrington said. The Foster Mound volunteer fire service arrived on the scene shortly after Natchez Fire Department to assist. Adams County Sheriff’s Office and Natchez police officers also responded.

By the time they got there, the house was fully engulfed and a car parked in the garage of the home was reduced to a shell of itself.

Neighbors watched in horror as fire consumed the home in the Morgantown neighborhood. Authorities had to prevent one young man from running into the home while it was burning.

Firefighters battled the fire into the wee hours of the morning on Monday. By one 1 p.m., the flames were almost subdued but sparks started flying from a nearby utility pole, causing the house to reignite.

“They can’t go in until power is cut from the home,” Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said at that time. “With all of that water puddling up, they would all be electrocuted.”

The firefighters turned their attention to neighboring homes to make sure they didn’t catch fire until Entergy crews could turn off the power.

Natchez Fire Chief Robert Arrington confirmed that no one else was injured in the house fire.

As of Tuesday, the cause of the blaze has not been determined.

State Fire Marshals have been notified of the death and the investigation is now in their hands, Arrington said. He did not know a timeframe of how long that would take, he said.