A 96-year-old Fairfax County woman facing difficult living conditions after her townhouse complex was sold to a developer. She refuses to leave, even after the complex shut off her water. Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey spoke with the woman inside her home.
At 96 years old, Jeanne Simmons had planned to live out her days in the Falls Church, Va. area town home she purchased for $1,000 back in 1957.
Instead, the former teacher finds herself at the center of a property rights dispute, a story first reported by the Annandale Blog.
Built in the 1940s, the Hillwood Square town house complex where Simmons lives was sold in June to property development company Avalon Bay. The complex is a co-op, meaning each resident owns one share. Simmons was among a group of residents who fought the sale, but lost when two-thirds of the owners voted in favor of the deal.
Residents were given until Aug. 23 to move out. Everyone left, except Jeanne Simmons.
"I like Virginia," Simmons told News4 Washington's Northern Virginia Bureau chief Julie Carey. "I like this house even with all the flaws."
But recently it has become even more difficult to stay. A water main break forced the City of Falls Church to have the water cut off, so Simmons' tap is dry. Avalon Bay and Simmons' friends have been bringing her water jugs.
Simmons' two-story, two-bedroom home is filled with life-long mementos and artwork painted by her son. Simmons was a longtime volunteer for the Republican Party, and most rooms feature photos of President George W. Bush. A hand-written, signed letter from him is positioned next to Simmons' bed.
Simmons' friend Pierre Joligard stopped by Friday with supplies and spent some time singing French songs with Simmons.
"It's terrible," Joligard said. "The time she's been living here, she doesn't want to move anywhere. When you are old, you are attached to every single thing that is in your house. All her life is situated here."
A former neighbor tried to bring in some boxes to encourage Simmons to pack up.
"I got two of them in her house and then she said, 'No, I don't want any more. I'm not going anywhere,'" said Tabi Yothers.
Aug. 26, Avalon Bay's attorneys sent a follow-up notice to Simmons asking her to leave within five days. In a written statement Avalon Bay spokesman Kurt Conway says:
“We are very upset at the way this unfortunate situation has developed. We have tried very hard to work out a reasonable approach with the family, and we have repeatedly attempted to explain the necessity of relocating Mrs. Simmons, who will receive for her co-op membership interest the price that was negotiated by the Hillwood Square Mutual Association. Unfortunately, we have had no cooperation from the family."
An Avalon Bay representative said the company has offered to pay for a hotel room for Simmons if she will move out.
Simmons' son, John, lives in Colorado. He says while he has power of attorney, he must legally follow his mother's wishes.
"My mother does not intend to vacate her home on any date," John Simmons said. "She has a right to occupy her home. She is going to challenge the sale all the way back to day one."
Friends say they will continue to look in on Simmons, but they worry about conditions in her town home.
"Things have gone downhill for her because people who lived here took care of her and checked on her, cleaned her house, did her dishes and made sure she had food and everything else," said former neighbor Yothers. "We've tried to help her with various other options but her thing was, 'I don't want to leave. I want to be here if I have to die here.'"