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Church mourns Auburn fire victim, fund set up for family

AUBURN -- Mindy Heard is where she wanted to be.

"She was ready to go, just always talking about heaven," Pastor Chris Gaddis said Tuesday. "That was her goal of living."

Heard, 68, passed away from smoke and soot inhalation Saturday night as her longtime home on Flowery Branch Road in Auburn burned around her. Just a few hours later, the congregation at she and Gaddis' Woods Grove Baptist Church -- located across the street -- would arrive for Sunday morning services and be greeted by the destruction.

"We saw it on the news, but it just didn't hit until you saw it in person," Gaddis said. "Just to see the devastation and then to see the family there."

Heard was born in 1943 in Lawrenceville, graduating from Central Gwinnett High School. The woman Gaddis described as "very energetic" and "flamboyant" despite being on oxygen and several medications is survived by a daughter and son, their spouses, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Seeing the two youngest -- and trying to explain what happened -- was the hardest part of the loss, Gaddis said.

"It was always all about Granny for them," he said.

Gwinnett County firefighters responded to Heard's home at about 8 p.m. Saturday. Lt. John Poe and firefighter Paul Thompson rescued Heard's son-in-law before being alerted that she was still inside the home fully engulfed in flames.

Driver-engineer Eric Jensen and firefighter Alan Krieg were able to pull Heard from a front bedroom window, but she had already succumbed to her injuries.

A fund has been set up by Woods Grove Baptist Church to help the Heard family. Donations can be made by visiting Gwinnett Federal Credit Union at 175 North Clayton St. in Lawrenceville, in the name of "The Heard Family Fund."

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Flanigan Funeral Home in Buford.