Family ID cards 73-year-old man killed in Essex County house fire

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The family identified the 73-year-old man on Sunday who died in a two-alarm fire at his East Orange home on Friday evening.

Anthony Roman, affectionately known as Tony by friends and Uncle Sonny by family, died when a fire ravaged his Westcott Street home on Friday evening, family members confirmed to NJ Advance Media.

“He didn’t have many, but he was generous with his time and resources,” said Roman’s niece Carmen Villafuerte. “We just want people to know that he was loved and that he had a family.”

Anthony Roman, seated in the center, with his family on Christmas Eve. It was the last time the family saw Roman.

Roman was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Newark with his Italian-Polish American family, Villafuerte said. Throughout his life he was known as a skilled carpenter and handyman who was “always ready to help with projects.” He often tinkered with cars too, and even owned his own classic Volkswagen minibus.

“He was very smart,” Villafuerte said, adding that his uncle could have appeared in Jeopardy! with his vast knowledge.

Interested in architecture, Roman was especially proud of his wood-frame house at 38 Westcott Street, which was built in 1910, according to public records. The 20th-century home was often filled with ongoing woodworking projects and supplies, Villafuerte said, and that’s why the family believe Friday’s fire “started so quickly.”

Villafuerte also said her uncle was apparently having issues with his oven, according to a friend who contacted her following the fire. However, it is not known if this is what started the fire.

When informed of her uncle’s death by the Essex County District Attorney’s Office on Saturday evening, Villafuerte said she was told preliminary details suggested the fire started in the kitchen.

The exact cause of the fire is not yet known and is still under investigation, according to the prosecution.

Villafuerte said the Essex County District Attorney’s Office notified it on Saturday, although the office declined to confirm Roman was the person who died in the blaze when asked on Sunday.

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Jackie Romain can be reached at [email protected]


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