‘Celebration of life’: Family copes with loss of man killed in Fort Worth apartment arson

Dwight Durham is being remembered by his loved ones as an outgoing person with an upbeat attitude who never allowed life to get him down. He was always positive, trying to look at the bright side of things, Deshanna Dukes said. Shortly before his death in a Fort Worth fire[1] that authorities say was intentionally set, Durham was experiencing homelessness, but even then, he was optimistic, according to Dukes.

He took interest in watching football, barbecuing and listening to music. “He’s just a simple, down-to-earth guy. He just, unfortunately, his life got cut short,” Dukes said.

Durham, 47, died Dec.

27 — five days before his birthday — at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, according to the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office. He and another victim, 28-year-old Galisha Gaston — who Dukes said was Durham’s girlfriend — died after they were injured in the fire[2] at the Tides at Meadowbrook apartment complex. The fire was set by 35-year-old Kristen Lewis on Christmas Eve, according to Fort Worth police.

Lewis was arrested on suspicion of capital murder of multiple people and an arson offense.

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?Get free alerts[6] when news breaks. Durham was trying to get back on his feet after being released from prison and was staying with people he knew at the apartment, according to Dukes. “He was a great dad,” Dukes told the Star-Telegram. “This loss really hurt a lot of us, especially myself because he was my partner for 10 years.” The two share three children together.

Durham had five children in total and a granddaughter. Dukes remembers him as a family man, as Durham considered the two children she had with another partner as his own. “I was his go-to person and he was my go-to person.

When life got us down, we’d call each other. We’d co-parent,” said Dukes. “His children are very devastated about this.” Dukes says for the children he still has in high school, they have been attending counseling to help them cope with the loss of their father. “I’m open to anything that could try to help them,” she said.

One of her favorite memories of Durham is when he attended her daughter’s high school graduation in 2023. “He made sure he was there,” Dukes said. “I mean, always a big support for any milestone for them. He always called to congratulate me.”

Originally from Detroit, Durham began living on his own when he moved to Phenix City, Alabama, where he met Dukes. He moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area when Dukes decided to move to Texas to help take care of her grandmother. “Texas kind of made his home.

He was here for 20 years,” said Dukes. In addition to their children, Dukes is also working through coping with Durham’s death. She was out of town while Durham was at the apartment that caught fire. “I feel bad because if I was here, he wouldn’t have even been there,” Dukes said.

In their last conversation, Durham asked Dukes to plan a dinner for both of them, their partners, and for their children to attend. “He just wanted to have a big happy family dinner,” she said. Now, Dukes hopes that people do not dwell on the loss of Durham, but rather celebrate his life.

“Always think about the good. It’s not just a sad moment,” Dukes said. “It’s a celebration of life for him.” Dukes organized a GoFundMe[7] to raise money for Durham’s funeral and memorial services.

“He was a loved guy never had any enemies if he came across ur path he’s one you can never forget about,” Dukes wrote on the GoFundMe page. “His laugh, sense of humor, and good heart will be truly missed.”

Of a £3,500 goal, £1,055 had been raised as of Wednesday.

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  1. ^ Fort Worth fire (www.star-telegram.com)
  2. ^ died after they were injured in the fire (www.star-telegram.com)
  3. ^ 911 audio captures panic, confusion after Sandman hotel explosion (www.star-telegram.com)
  4. ^ North Texans brace for more below-freezing temperatures, another cold front on way (www.star-telegram.com)
  5. ^ Paradise school board member, 2 children killed in plane crash (www.star-telegram.com)
  6. ^ alerts (t.news.star-telegram.com)
  7. ^ GoFundMe (www.gofundme.com)