EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 27, 2014

Beloved couple remembered

METHUEN — James McDermott was the kind of guy who was particular with details.

A longtime teacher at the former Tenney High School and later at Methuen High School, McDermott taught both mechanical drafting and biology.

Friends said yesterday they were shocked to learn that McDermott, 81, and his wife, Thelma, 79, former head maternity nurse at Lawrence General Hospital, died in a fire at their home at 22 Buttonwood Drive early in the morning.

“He was so particular with details and everything,” said Ray Pilat, the longtime Methuen sports announcer. “I was shocked when I saw he didn’t have any (working) smoke detectors in the house. Jimmy was one of the guys who took care of the small details.”

Pilat, who taught with McDermott at Tenney High and later Methuen High, remembered end-of-school-year parties at the McDermott’s place on Island Pond in Derry, a staple event for years for Tenney and Methuen faculty.

“Jimmy was a great host,” Pilat said. “We’d go swimming, spin a number of yarns as far as the school year or what had happened to us personally. It was a good ole time, as they say.”

McDermott did a lot of work on the house he lived in, friends said.

“It was his pride and joy,” Pilat said.

Kelly McDermott, the McDermotts’ daughter who lives in New York where she is an artist and fashion stylist, talked last night of her parent’s commitment to their family, community and animals that they rescued and provided a home to.

“They were philanthropists who did it quietly,’’ she said. “You’d never know.

“They were the most amazing, supportive parents, she said. “They deserved so much better.’’

Kelly McDermott talked about the shock and anguish felt by several of the firefighters and other first responders who tried unsuccessfully to save her parents from the fire. She said she is somewhat comforted by the fact that the responders who knew her parents were at the scene and treated their bodies with respect.

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