100-year-old woman succumbs to fire injuries

July 21, 2013 (WILMETTE, Ill.)

The Wilmette librarian was just weeks away from turning 101 years old when she died suddenly in a fire Saturday night. Her family and co-workers are remembering her high energy and dedication as she worked in a library at the age of 100.

Opal Reifenberg worked five days a week, about three hours a day in the technical services department of the Wilmette Library.

Still charging ahead, approaching her 101st birthday in August, that is until early Saturday morning when fire struck her second floor Wilmette condo.

She died later Saturday night from carbon monoxide and smoke inhalation.

Besides her work as a librarian, the vibrant and well respected Reifenberg had 5 children and 10 grandchildren. Her husband passed away in 1991.

"Opal really loved life," said Katherine Williams, the victim's daughter. "She was always ready for an adventure and she saw life that way. She saw it as an opportunity to see and do new things, As well as enjoying the old and familiar things."

One of her adventures was going up in a hot air balloon when she was 87.

Sunday morning in the library lobby, co-workers displayed and article about Reifenberg.

Her job filing new inventory didn't require her to interact with many customers but co-workers call her an "exceptional human being."

The fire department hasn't released the official cause of the condo fire. Preliminary reports suggest an electrical short may have been to blame.

The family is also remembering that, despite her sudden death, Reifenberg lived a long and productive life.

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