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Fire survivor remembers own tragedy during Argyle coverage

Published On: Sep 11 2012 09:44:02 PM CDT   Updated On: Sep 12 2012 08:06:13 AM CDT

As Lois Miller heard news of the Wand family fire tragedy in Argyle, she saw herself in the young toddler that survived.

"It brought back a lot of memories for me -- the memories of my brothers that I lost in a fire 44 years ago," the Deerfield woman said.

Miller, then 5 years old, came home from school in 1968 to find her Menomonie, Wis., home on fire. Her three younger brothers, the same number that died in the Argyle fire, died. Miller's parents survived.

A leaking oil stove caused the fire at the Miller's home, while police have implicated the Wand boys' father and uncle in that blaze.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice filed charges against the boys' father, Armin Wand III, 32, and his brother, Jeremy Wand, 18, on Tuesday. The agency charged each of them with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of arson with intent to defraud.

The department also charged Armin Wand with three counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and Jeremy Wand with two counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide.

The criminal complaint, filed Tuesday in Lafayette County Circuit Court, alleges that Armin Wand wanted to kill his family members to collect on their life insurance policies and get a "fresh start" in life. He convinced his brother Jeremy to assist by promising $300 of the insurance payout, the complaint alleges.

For Lois Miller and her parents, their own loss was too painful a subject to discuss over the years, but the weekend tragedy in Argyle changed that, she said.

"When it happened, I was told that my brothers were in heaven and that was it," she said. "This weekend really went deep, and the whole thing is stirring up the memories and the feelings."

Miller now remembers her brothers, who were 1, 3 and 4 years old when they died, through a few remaining photos and a book that her mom put together.

In Argyle, Sharon Wand survived the fire but suffered burns on about 70 percent of her body and remains hospitalized in critical condition. Two-year-old Jessica Wand was unharmed.

"I do hope she gets the help she will need in coping with the things she will learn," said Miller, now 49. "And I hope that her future is bright."

To help, Miller said she would begin collecting donations at the Cambridge restaurant where she works. She said she will give the proceeds to Jessica Wand's benefit fund.

To donate to that fund, and to cover the funeral costs of Allen, Jeffery and Joseph Wand, visit the Talmer Bank and Trust branch in Monroe or mail checks to the bank at:

Talmer Bank and Trust
101 7 1/2 St.
Monroe, WI 53566

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