OAKLAND -- If there was one thing Samuel Knox Sr. was, it was feisty.

At 93, he could barely get around and could no longer cook or clean for himself, yet he refused to leave the home where he lived for more than 60 years. So, each day, one of his 10 children would come over to help him.

"You couldn't tell him nothing," said his granddaughter Tiana Knox, 25, of Oakland, noting that he drove well into his 80s, until his children took away his car keys.

Eight years after Doris, his wife of 55 years, died, he still carried her picture to his bed each night and laid the framed photo on his pillow.

The man who never gave up died at the Church Street home he loved Tuesday morning following a 9:54 a.m. fire that gutted the entire front portion of the home.

"He will be missed. Very missed by everybody. He was a character, very much so," said Tiana Knox, who delivered a baby boy three weeks ago, one of Samuel Knox Sr.'s 30 great grandchildren. He also had more than 30 grandchildren, she said.

When firefighters arrived at the home, they found flames coming from one side of the home that spread to the attic.

Oakland Fire Acting Battalion Chief Marlon Brandle ¿said firefighters found the man inside the burning home, and brought him outside, where he was later pronounced dead.

At least 20 firefighters controlled the blaze by 10:19 a.m., said Brandle.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but it is believed to be an accidental electrical fire. Brandle estimated damages of at least $250,000.

After firefighters cleared, family member after family member drove to the house, where charred furniture sat on Knox's once-prized front lawn.

Other motorists had trouble getting through as the narrow street was so crowded with friends' and relatives' cars.

"He was a well-known person in the neighborhood," said his daughter Yvonne Knox, standing on the sidewalk outside the home. "All 10 of us were born and raised in this house. You would have never thought he'd go this way."

Contact Kristin J. Bender at kbender@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter/kjbender. Contact Harry Harris at hharris@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/Harryharris15.