Popular Pastor Dies in Morning Fire

March 7, 2011 Updated Mar 7, 2011 at 9:44 PM EDT

By Ed Reilly

March 7, 2011 Updated Mar 7, 2011 at 9:44 PM EDT

(Grand Island, N.Y.) For decades, Reverend Reba Edwards dedicated herself to spreading the word of God throughout Western New York.

But sadly, on Monday, word of her death was the only thing that anyone seemed to be talking about.

A smokey fire in Rev. Edwards home at 3998 East River Road on Grand Island broke out around 7:50am.

Firefighters arrived promptly only to find a house that was fully "charged with smoke," says Grand Island Fire Chief Kevin Koch.

A four man search and rescue team located the 79-year old in her upstairs bedroom.

She was apparently overcome by smoke and the toxic atmosphere created inside the house by the fire.

Resuscitation was not possible.

The Erie County Sheriff's office, working with the Grand Island Fire Company, spent the day searching through debris, trying to come up with a cause. Investigators are focusing their search on a first floor area by a laundry room.

The fire is still officially listed as under investigation.

Reverend Reba Edwards leaves behind 7 children and many grand-children. She recently retired after years of being a pastor for the Church of God.

Her death comes just weeks after her husband of 63 years died. In January 2011, Reverend Reba Edwards helped conduct the funeral service for her husband Robert Edwards.