But in the predawn hours Monday, a fire ignited in the home McClendon shared with his son, Anthony McClendon; his son's girlfriend, Rishya Jenkins; and his two grandchildren, 4-year-old Cyncere and 2-year-old Jayden McClendon. Anthony McClendon was at work at the time.
The four others were apparently trapped on the second floor by flames, officials said. Chuck McClendon, Jenkins, and the children were rushed to hospitals, but all lost their lives.
Anthony McClendon, 25, the children's father, returned from work shortly before 5 a.m. to find the building engulfed in flames and tried in vain to get into the house. Relatives at the scene said that the flames beat him back and that he was so distraught he had to be briefly hospitalized.
The fire is still under investigation, and Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said there was no sign of working smoke detectors in the house. Officials believe the fire may have started downstairs. The first calls came in just before 5 a.m., and the blaze was declared under control in about a half-hour, officials said.
"They did not get an early warning," he said. "It's just a terrible morning."
Fire officials urged anyone who needs a smoke detector to call 311 or go to www.freedomfromfire.com. The Fire Department will send someone out to install detectors in any homes that need them, Executive Chief Richard Davison said.
"They can't put a fire out, but they do save lives," he said. "We want to see them in every room, if possible."
Fourteen deaths have been blamed on fires this year, Davison said. That does not include two firefighters who were killed last week battling a Kensington warehouse blaze. At this time last year, the number was 16.
Two of this year's deaths happened 24 hours before the Monday blaze. On Sunday, a 4-year-old girl and her 79-year-old great-grandmother were killed in a fire on Firth Street in North Philadelphia. Davison said that there may have been smoke detectors in that house but that the fire was still under investigation.
Chancellor Street still smelled of smoke by midmorning Monday, and neighbors gathered to look at the charred, two-story brick house. All the windows were blown out, and a pile of debris and rubble had collected on the sidewalk. Residents said Jayden and Cyncere were typical children who rode bikes together and played with the other children on the street.
"Anthony is such a sweetheart. Every time you see him, he's always got a smile for you," said Tai Bailey, 38. "They were all that he had, that was his family. This is something the whole community feels."
Nicole Ellis, 42, said McClendon was her godfather, a friend of her parents' whom she grew up with.
"He taught me how to carve a turkey," she said with a smile. "Every function I had, he was there. Every time he had something, I was there."
Debra Forrest, 47, a niece who lives a few blocks away, broke into tears upon reaching the scene early Monday.
"I'm still crying on the inside. I'll never stop crying," she said.
Contact Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inquirer staff writer Peter Mucha contributed to this article.