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Together forever

Family says inseparable playmates killed in fire were born 20 days apart

In a sprawling extended family with lots of kids to play with, cousins Chanel Viray and Anthony Oden-Viray, both 4, were special playmates.

Born 20 days apart and baptized together, they were inseparable from the very beginning, family members said.

They were always close, always together, said their grandmother, Thelma Viray. Now, even in death, they are together forever.

Firefighters discovered the children's bodies Wednesday afternoon after extinguishing a blaze that destroyed a shed where they were playing at their grandparents' home on North Keene Way Drive.

Thursday, the state fire marshal and investigators from Medford's police and fire departments interviewed the family and combed the shed's charred remains for clues.

Medford police Lt. Mike Moran described the work as a standard investigation of unexpected deaths. Investigators hadn't uncovered any obvious answers in the search for the cause of the fire or the cause of the two deaths, he said.

We'll be at this until we find something conclusive or exhaust all the possibilities, Moran said. We want to get the family some answers.

The family gathered Thursday at the Roberts Road home of Anthony's parents, Jerson and Theresa Viray, where they shared stories, comforted one another and waited for a funeral director.

Chanel's parents are Stella and Jenrico Viray.

They always wanted to be together, Stella Viray said of the two young cousins. Then, when they were together, they would fight like brother and sister.

They were beautiful kids, always happy.

Aunt Victoria Sanchez recounted how the two got their nicknames, Bologna and Jalapeno.

Anthony was called Pogi, which means handsome in the Virays' original homeland of the Philippines, and that nickname was linked with the nonsense syllables Nonie, because it just sounded right in a rhyming sort of way. Carried further, the rhythmic rhyme became Bologna, which also fit well with his love of eating, she said.

Chanel's nickname also came from the family's Filipino heritage. A phonetic mix-up as she described her heritage and love of spicy food left her proudly proclaiming she could handle hot chili sauce on her rice because she was a jalapeno, when she meant to say Filipino, Sanchez said.

The zesty nickname fit her energy and bright smile, which are evident in a family photo taken earlier this month and in a formal portrait of the cousins when they were 2 years old.

The 2-year-old portrait of the denim-clad youngsters with bright smiles and mischievous eyes has become a centerpiece of a spontaneous shrine that has sprung up on the front lawn of the North Keene Way Drive home, which is also an adult foster-care home.

The Rogue Valley Council of Governments' Senior and Disabled Services found other lodging for four elderly residents evacuated from the home Wednesday. Police tape blocks the driveway and door of the mint-green home.

Friends and family have brought teddy bears of all sizes in white, brown, yellow, purple and blue. The bears sit on the lawn with hand-lettered cards, flowers and a crucifix. At the center of a mound of plush sits a stuffed Scooby Doo, his furry brown arms wrapped around the framed portrait of Chanel and Anthony.

Scooby Doo was their favorite. They both loved Scooby Doo, said Theresa Viray, Anthony's mother.

She knelt on the grass, sobbing with several other young women.

They were the happiest babies ever alive. It's not fair, one of the women said.

A memorial for Anthony Richard Oden-Viray and Chanel Mei Viray, 4-year-old cousins and playmates who died in an east Medford fire Wednesday, sits on the front lawn of the home where the two last played. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven