AKRON- A mother and three children who died in a raging house fire on Wednesday had moved to Ohio from Florida to start a new life here.
Lydia Rebecca Aponte,31, was only recently engaged to her fiance, Jesus Castaneda.
Neighbors say they moved into the 18th Street home in Akron's Kenmore neighborhood only about four months ago.
Her three children, Makayla Montero, 10; Isaiah Ortiz, 6; and Aiden Ortiz,4, are described by relatives as happy, smart and talented and were her pride and joy.
"I spoke to my aunt-- the mother of Lydia-- and she told me that Lydia spoke to her last week and was just telling her how happy she was that she did it (moved to Akron) and the kids were in school and, you know, Aiden was just getting ready to start kindergarten this August; she had all the paperwork lined up," said Hassan Lewis, Aponte's cousin.
Aponte and the children were killed in a fire that was first noticed about 9 a.m. on Wednesday.
Characteristic of her devotion to her children, relatives say Aponte died trying to rescue them.
"She woke up her fiance and told him, 'Hey, there's a fire and it was too hard to breathe and her fiance went to get to a window to open it, and she went straight for her babies, you know. She went to the room to try to get them together and just, she made the ultimate sacrifice," said Lewis.
Her fiance escaped the raging fire by jumping from an open window by a staircase into the subzero temperatures with no shirt.
Witnesses told 911 he was in the driveway, sobbing.
Firefighters say he tried to get back into the house to rescue Aponte and the children but couldn't because of the intense heat.
"It hit us out of nowhere. It's the last thing any of us expected. It's still tough," Lewis told FOX 8 News by phone from Florida, where relatives still were struggling to accept the news.
"It's like waking up today, you think it was just a nightmare and you realize it's still real," he added.
Akron Public Schools on Thursday said the two oldest children attended nearby Pfeiffer Elementary.
Superintendent David James released a statement on Thursday saying :
"The entire Akron Public Schools family is grief stricken that a wonderful young family, a family new to our community and a blessing to Pfeiffer Elementary School is gone. We hope you will join all of us as we pray for these children, their mother and everyone who was close in their lives."
The district planned to have counselors at the school on Friday.
Family members of the victims shared home videos of the children, showing smiling, happy kids who were planning a visit to Tampa this summer.
"They were the babies of the family, you know, and they were set to come visit us this summer. We were all excited, you know; we were all buying stuff for them here, getting ready and, you know; all we have now are the videos and that's one thing I would always do, you know, I was just there to record them all the time because they were characters," said Lewis.
"Lydia was just so strong, an amazing and strong mother, down to the last moment and the kids they were just -- they were all geniuses. Makayla, Isaiah were all honor roll students. Aiden, only four years old, was very articulate, just so smart," he added.
"They were just really very pure, pure souls and they definitely, definitely didn't deserve this," added Lewis.
A GoFundMe page has also been started to help with funeral expenses.
Fire investigators, meanwhile, were back at the scene on Thursday, planning to return after the weather warms up to make sure they did not overlook anything while trying to determine a probable cause.