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74-year-old woman, a well-known animal lover, and several cats die in Sibley house fire

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SIBLEY, Mo. -- A 74-year-old Sibley woman died in an early morning house fire Tuesday. There were also more than a dozen cats inside.

"People would call her and say, 'Beverly, we've got a couple cats that need a home,' and she would come by and pick them up," Beverly Rooks' granddaughter, Laurasha Hawkins, said.

Rooks' family said she took care of about 30 to 50 cats, most of them living outside.

"Her goal was to rehab these cats and get them over and have them fixed already so that burden would't be on someone taking a new cat home," Hawkins said.

Along with Rooks, a few of the cats didn't survive the fire. The Jackson County Sheriff's Department said animal control has rescued about 15 so far.

"At this point, it appears that five cats did die as a result of the fire this morning," Capt. Mike Rogers said.

The fire happened toward the back of the house. At this point, it's not clear how it started, but officials have given the family some indication.

"What happened was that she had woke up. They think that she was trying to put the fire out. She wasn't affected by the fire. It was just the smoke inhalation," Hawkins said.

Rooks was an animal lover, but her family said her generosity extended to people, too.

"She has such a servant's heart and such a love for people. She was really, truly God's hands and feet," Hawkins said.

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