Pastor Who Died Holding 2 Sons After Saving Wife and Other Kids in Fire Was 'So Loving' (Exclusive)

“He always greeted you with a hug every time,” Julie Trapani tells PEOPLE about her brother-in-law Mark Robinette

<p>Mark Robinette/Facebook</p> Mark Robinette

Mark Robinette/Facebook

Mark Robinette
  • Mark Robinette, the pastor who died trying to save his two sons from a house fire on Jan. 23, is being remembered for his "loving" nature

  • The pastor's sister-in-law Julie Trapani tells PEOPLE that Mark helped those that others often ignored

  • Liam, one of the two boys killed in the fire, was adopted by the late pastor, Trapani says

A pastor who died in a house fire in Ohio last week after saving his wife and two of his children is being remembered for his big heart.

The deadly fire broke out at the home on Ballah Road in Orient on Jan. 23, killing three males ages 55, 17 and 10, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce.

Haley McGuire later identified the victims on Facebook as Pastor Mark Robinette, her cousin, and his sons Gideon, 17, and Liam, 10. She said Mark was found holding his two sons when their bodies were discovered.

Julie Trapani, the pastor’s sister-in-law, tells PEOPLE many family members have been leaning on their faith as they cope with the sudden loss of three incredible individuals. “Our faith is everything,” Trapani adds.

Related: 11-Year-Old Girl Dies at Hospital, Becoming 6th Sibling to Die After Indiana House Fire

Mark founded the Foundation Church in 2000 in Mt. Sterling and was with the ministry for over 20 years, according to the church's website.

The late pastor was an adventurous individual who yearned to help others, according to his sister-in-law. He aimed to help those who many “would ignore" and “never knew a closed door.”

“He always greeted you with a hug every time,” Trapani says. “He was so, so loving.”

Related: Boy, 7, and Teen Dead in 'Explosion of Fire' Sparked by E-Bike Battery at N.Y.C. Home: 'Terrible Tragedy'

While celebrating Christmas this past year, Trapani says Mark mentioned “how thankful he was” that some of the people he was helping “made some little positive step toward doing right.”

Trapani tells PEOPLE that Mark was also an amazing storyteller and simply enjoyed talking with others. “It's hard to go places with Mark because Mark has a conversation with whoever he's with,” she says.

At the pastor’s funeral, Trapani shares that Mark's surviving children vowed to “continue what our daddy started,” adding, “What his dream was will not end." Mark’s wife, Andrea, sang at the funeral as well.

Related: N.J. Firefighter and Father of 3 Dies After Battling Blaze: 'Tragic Loss'

“She knows this with God, that she can get through this,” Mark’s sister-in-law explains. The family, she adds, is “strong” in its faith and is currently “surrounded by wonderful people.”

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Liam, who was adopted, was a storyteller and enjoyed writing special letters to his grandmother, Trapani explains.

<p>Julie Trapini</p> Gideon and Liam, adopted by Pastor Mark Robinette

Julie Trapini

Gideon and Liam, adopted by Pastor Mark Robinette

"He was just really tender," Trapani recalls. "He was just very, very tender, just a special, special little guy."

As of Tuesday afternoon, nearly $250,000 has been raised via GoFundMe for the late pastor’s family.

“Everyone has been so gracious,” Trapani notes, “and we’re very blessed with all of that, so we never want to take that for granted.”

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