Saturday night, Peter and Maude Holden had plans to go to dinner to celebrate their 53rd wedding anniversary and her 74th birthday, which would have been Sunday.

As he always did, Peter would have given his wife a dozen roses. But the flowers went instead to the funeral home where a wake was held Monday for Maude Holden. She died of smoke inhalation early Friday after a fire roared through their apartment building on Washington Avenue.

With the flowers, Holden said he wrote a card saying, “Happy anniversary and happy birthday, with all my love.”

The Holdens had lived in their third-floor apartment since 1942. Peter Holden said the owners had given them several chances to move to a first-floor unit, most recently early last summer.

They might have survived on the bottom floor because the fire apparently began on the second floor and the worst damage was on the top two levels.

“My wife didn’t want to move down, ” Holden said Monday. “The landlady said we could move down to the first floor, but my wife wanted to stay where she was.”

Fire investigators asked him whether he had heard an argument downstairs Thursday evening, but Holden said he did not. The first sign that something was wrong came shortly after 10:30 p.m., when Holden, sitting in his den, noticed smoke outside a window.

“I didn’t know what to think about it, ” he recalled. “I looked out a window near where my wife was sitting and the front porch was all in flames. It was going right up.”

The couple tried to go out their front door, but the smoke and heat in the hallway were too intense, Holden said. They encountered the same thing at the apartment’s back door, so they returned to wait for firefighters near a front window.

“My poor wife couldn’t stand so long. She collapsed right beside me, ” Holden said. “I guess they saved me by inches. I wouldn’t have lasted very much longer.”

Firefighters pulled him through the window and led him down the ladder, then went back for his wife, Holden said.

Holden was taken to Maine Medical Center. He said he wasn’t burned but had inhaled a lot of smoke.

“The phleghm that I coughed out (at the hospital), especially the first day, it was black as tar, ” Holden said.

Nurses and doctors told him his wife was seriously injured, he said, and then “came back a little while later and told me that she was gone.”

He is staying with friends until he feels better and is able to find another place to live.

Holden had a long career in local hotels, including 28 years as the doorman at the Eastland, which is now the Sonesta. Until he injured his back in late August, Holden was working three afternoons a week at the Good Day Market on Brackett Street.

He is also a treasurer of the Bald Eagles Flying Club and still holds a pilot’s license at 77.

He said his wife worked at a local hotel and a market for a short while but was primarily a homemaker. The couple had no children.

Maude Holden loved animals and bought day-old bread to feed birds and peanuts for squirrels, her husband said.

The couple also enjoyed Sunday drives but hadn’t gone on any recently because Maude Holden’s health had been failing.

“She told me she was ready to go, ” Holden said.