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Rock Hill man dies in Neely Road house fire

Ronnie Joe Wylie spent his days working odd jobs.

He was a mechanic, a construction worker, a painter, a landscaper, a "jack of all trades," his sister Janice said.

During evenings, friends and neighbors would gather at his house off Neely Road in Rock Hill to play checkers on the porch, tell jokes and pitch horseshoes in the back yard.

There was no electricity in the small, one-story home, which Wylie, 58, lived in for most of his life. A wood stove kept the place warm.

Ronnie Wylie died Friday morning in a fire that investigators believe started in the living room when clothes, papers and logs scattered around the burning stove caught fire.

Janice Wylie, who lives next door, said she woke up to the smell of smoke. By the time she stepped outside to see where it was coming from, her brother's home was engulfed in flames. She called 911.

Firefighters arrived around 5:20 a.m. and found Wylie in the bedroom, Rock Hill Fire Capt. Rusty Myers said.

He died from burns and smoke inhalation, according to York County Chief Deputy Coroner David Chambers.

It took 15 firefighters about 20 minutes to battle the flames, which destroyed the house. Investigators estimate the damage to be $30,000.

All day Friday, family, friends and neighbors congregated at the home. They shared stories and condolences.

Ronnie Wylie grew up in Rock Hill with five brothers and six sisters.

After graduating from Rock Hill High with high marks, he attended York Technical College, where he made the dean's list, family members said. He later joined the Army, which stationed him in Germany.

He got married and had two girls. Although he and his wife eventually separated, Ronnie cared deeply for his daughters, Michael said.

Ronnie later settled in the home at 1617 Neely Road. Although no one lived with him, he was seldom alone.

"He was a gravitational guy," Michael said. "People gravitated to him. He was a leader. People wanted to follow him. He couldn't shake a friend loose."

He was known for his sharp intellect and good nature.

"If he kept his mind to it there was nothing he couldn't do," Michael said. "He was the brother I looked up to."

"He was a sweet, lovable person," Janice Wylie said. "He loved to crack jokes and make people laugh."

James Robinson, a neighbor and friend, often went next door to hang out.

"He was just a fun person," Robinson said. "A good-hearted person."