Missing their angel

The little concrete angel was a sign of comfort and hope for Darlene and Orval Arebalo. Now it is missing from the charred remains of their Mariposa County home.

The Arebalos put the foot-tall angel in a memorial garden in front of their mobile home after their only daughter, Kimmy, 15, died in a traffic accident in 1978.

Kimmy's angel became a symbol of survival for the Telegraph fire, which burned 53 square miles and destroyed 30 homes and 100 outbuildings over 12 days. It was featured in television coverage of the fire's aftermath and on fresnobee.com.

Losing their daughter was "the ultimate hurt," said Orval Arebalo, 71, who painted the concrete angel's wings silver and its robe pink. "The only thing that kept our sanity was knowing she's our angel in heaven." The couple also have three sons.

The Arebalos suffered another blow when their home on West Whitlock Road burned to the ground in the early days of the Telegraph fire. "We got some family photos, the computer, a few clothes, the dog and cat. As we were driving off, we could see the flames coming over the hill," Arebalo said.

When they returned a few days later, Kimmy's angel was about the only thing left, its concrete hands still clasped in prayer, but smudged by the smoke and flames that had leveled the house.

"We were amazed it survived. It's a sign of hope that everything will turn around," Arebalo said.

"It made me so happy," said Darlene Arebalo, 66. "There's always hope in God and he showed us that when she was still standing."

They went back to the lot again Aug. 1 -- and found that Kimmy's angel was gone. "It was devastating," Darlene Arebalo said. "That's when I felt depressed."

The Arebalos plan to build a home on their lot and they hope they can put Kimmy's angel in the front garden again. For now, their insurance company has put them up in a house in Mariposa.

Mariposa County Supervisor Janet Bibby has asked the community "for one more act of kindness" in helping the Arebalos find the angel.

Cal Fire and PG&E crews and Mariposa County sheriff's deputies also are keeping an eye out, Bibby said.

Bibby said she doesn't believe the angel was stolen maliciously, but whoever took it might be too embarrassed to return it.

"We think it was a mistake because our community is very close," she said. "We're just asking for it to be returned, no questions asked."

The angel can be returned to the Mariposa County Government Center, 5100 Bullion St., at the corner of 10th Street, or after hours to the Sheriff's Office at 4963 10th St.

As much as the Arebalos would like Kimmy's angel back, they're willing to let it go if there's a greater need.

"If someone really thought they needed it, if it gave them peace and comfort, that's fine," Darlene Arebalo said. "But it would be nice to have her back."