HOUGHTON - Jerry Dragicevich's 99-year-old grandmother Domenica Normand was saying the Rosary Friday morning when she detected smoke in her apartment.
"She told me a little bit ago, 'I was praying that everybody gets here safe,' because we're throwing a birthday party for her today and she's got great-grandkids who are traveling up and her brother is coming up,'" he said. "That's what she was worried about - everybody making it here."
Normand, a resident of Heritage Manor, was rescued from her fifth-floor balcony of the Houghton senior housing complex following a Friday morning fire that started in a neighboring apartment's kitchen.
Daily Mining Gazette/Kelly Fosness
Firefighters from the Hancock Fire Department rescue Domenica Normand, who turns 100 today, from her fifth-floor apartment at Heritage Manor in Houghton Friday morning.
"She went over by her kitchen area and she said that's where it really smelled smokey," Dragicevich said. "Then she went and opened her door and there was smoke in the hallway. It started to come in so she went and shut the door and she went on her balcony."
Firefighters from the Hancock Fire Department, utilizing their aerial truck, removed the railing to Norman's patio before rescuing her. All she had with her was a walker.
Dragicevich, of downstate Harbor Springs, was on the scene while his grandmother was brought safely to the ground just after 11 a.m. Friday. Arriving in Houghton Wednesday evening, he said Normand's family was in town for her 100th birthday.
"We're having a party at the Chassell VFW tonight and we've got about 65 people coming," he said. "She's got all of her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren here so we're sure hoping she can make it."
Dragicevich said Normand was transported from Heritage Manor by Mercy EMS to Portage Health for evaluation.
"Because of her age they want to check her out," he said in a phone interview from the hospital. "But she's in pretty spunky spirits though."
In the meantime, he said, his wife was in the process of finding something for her to wear to her party Friday night, if she's still up for it.
"She lost her outfit for today in (the fire)," he said. "So they're out getting her some stuff for her because we have no clue when they're going to be able to get back in. Bottom line is the troops are rallied. She's got family in the area."
Dragicevich said he promised his grandmother an unforgettable party on her 100th birthday because a family trip to Disney prevented their making it to the Upper Peninsula for her 99th.
"So I called her on her birthday and said I was sorry we couldn't be there but I told her don't worry, next year we're going to have a big soire," he recalled. "She said, 'well, if I make it.'"
The next day, Dragicevich said he received a call that she fell and broke her hip.
"She had surgery, rehab and anything else," he said. "So she's been pretty much determined that she's going to make this 100th birthday."
From the Chassell VFW, Janet Dragovich of Portage Township, said Normand made it to the party and was with family.
"It's made me cry because I don't know how long I'll have her," Dragovich said. "After tonight, turning 100 years, you never know."