It happened just after 8 a.m. Saturday in the 1300 block of Magnolia Avenue.
The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.
The victim was 88-year-old Dan Gagax. He and his wife Connie had been married for some 20 years, and Saturday was Connie's birthday.
"It was just hard knowing; I tried to call (Saturday morning) because it was Connie's birthday," said Angie Peterson, a close family friend. "I was gonna greet her a 'Happy Birthday,' and no one would answer, and we just got a phone call from her niece, saying that Dan passed away."
Peterson has known Gagax for nearly 30 years.
"I called him 'Dad' in the Philippines," Peterson noted. "I called him the same thing here."
Elkhart fire investigators say the fire started in a bedroom on the first floor. By the time crews arrived, they saw heavy smoke coming from the southeast corner. The bedroom was completely engulfed in flames.
"It's just so shocking," said Peterson.
Gagax's mother-in-law was home at the time. She was able to get out of the house. Gagax tried to crawl out but didn't make it.
"He was always generous, such a good guy, he helped everybody, he would give his last dime if somebody else would need it," described Peterson.
Firefighters were able to put out the fire within an hour. It's still unknown what caused it.
With 80% of the home damaged, it's practically a total loss, but Peterson says she's feeling the loss of a friend.
"I felt important in his life, and I felt the same," Peterson added. "He's important to me."
Gagax's wife was at work when the fire struck.