Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Previewing a Lifetime of Memories . . .

Last week, I mentioned that there was an estate auction scheduled for a house and its contents in Tredyffrin Township — 788 N. Valley Road, Paoli for Saturday, July 16. I stopped by the Open House over the weekend. Although advertised as a ‘fix-me-upper’, the statement is inaccurate; this house is a complete teardown. The auctioneer George Wilson and his wife were removing the remaining items from the house and suggested that if I went in the house, I probably would not stay long. They were right.

Probably built in the 1960’s, the brick house is a one-story style, typical of the period. It was obvious that in the past, the courtyard and gardens would have been beautiful, but now completely overgrown with weeds and vines. I was interested in the back-story of the house and its owners. I was told that a 92-yr. old woman had owned the home before her passing (her husband had predeceased her) and that her family was selling the house and its contents. As I wandered through the house, I could not help but wonder if this woman spent her last days in this house, and was she alone. If so, how very sad.

The ceiling is falling in, floorboards in disrepair, damage and holes in the walls . . . complete devastation. However, the house had a story of the grand life the owners had lived. Amidst all the wreckage of the house, were old black and white photos in antique frames from the 1930s and 40s of the owners taken with famous people. An upright Steinway piano with sheet music at the ready sat in the empty living room, a Staffordshire china tea set discarded on the floor and elegant vintage clothing left on their hangers . . . a lifetime of memories.

I asked the auctioneer who these people were that lived in this house and why was no family here to remove the many beautiful things. Apparently, the family had removed what they wanted and all that remained was for auction. I was told that this is the way families often times settle estates. The auctioneer did offer interesting trivia – the owners of the house were the ones responsible for bringing the Chihuahuas breed of dogs from Mexico to the United States many years ago.

Two very large Pods sit outside the house and are filled with antique furniture from the house; a lifetime of collections waiting to be sold. On Saturday, July 16, the antique auction will preview at 9:30 AM with a start time of 10:30 AM. The real estate (house and 3.2 acres) is to be auctioned at 1 PM. The property on N. Valley Road is located parallel to Rt. 202, although this is a section of Rt. 202 that is scheduled for sound walls. As I said, the house is a complete tear down along with the garage and other outbuildings – nothing can be saved.

In the kitchen, the dishwasher door is ajar with dishes waiting to be removed, the auctioneer explained that this was the way they found the house . . . it was as if the house stopped in time with the passing of its owner.

I left the N. Valley Road house on Saturday with such an overwhelming sense of sadness. Where was this woman’s family . . . did she die alone in the house . . . why didn’t someone care?

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  1. This is sad but its more common than you think. My elderly mother let her house go until it became medically necessary for her to be in a nursing home . I’ve spent the last 18 months sorting, cleaning and finally selling her house. .The paperwork & her finances were a mess also. I have lost all respect for my 3 siblings and other relatives who live in the area and forget she is alive. Another point is nursing many are “dumped” there and forgotten .Its been a life lesson because I managed to raise 3 children who care very deeply and have much empathy for those in need.

  2. CHV and Pattye
    Absolutely too common a story. I got to know this auction group when I was asked to go to an estate auction by a family friend in another state. Her brother had died on Pan Am 103 and left everything to his girlfriend. He lived in their parents’ house. EVERYTHING was turned over to the auctioneer, and the girlfriend didn’t offer anything to the family. I was there to buy something at auction that meant something.

    Clearly that is not the same kind of story, but I know so many elderly people whose families are not around; so many people in their 50s whose families are in their 80s and not in this area. The world is flat — and relationships are complicated. Kids don’t always have time to “move Mom and Dad.”

    A pair of Paoli sisters recognized this and started a business for this kind of thing — is available to help relocate elderly parents and take care of the stuff rather than handing it all to an auctioneer. Perhaps there are other businesses. The sad part about this woman is that she probably was feeling very poor — 100% equity in her house and tough times paying taxes. So she lives it out alone, and now her heirs take what’s left. With some effort and kindness, she could have been the beneficiary of her own estate and lived out in better circumstances.

  3. My father Bill and I have a similar business ( It’s an estate services company that provides cleanouts, appraisal services, and charitable donation/auction services.

    “Give it a Rest” is correct. Many families have complicated relationships, and/or might not necessarily have time to spend resolving an estate.

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