My wife, Lynn and I have lived here since 1990.
We looked for six months before we found this little diamond in the rough. It wasn’t much to look at back then, but as a carpenter, I saw huge potential.
The Cape Cod style house was built in 1957, the year I was born and had good strong bones.
That’s Lynn with Sammy – our first dog. He was so smart. Look how cute Lynn is!
The ½ acre double lot was in the middle of a small suburb by a lake. It was covered with 26 tall trees and used to be part of the Sears Estate.
The streets wind through the rolling landscape and around the lake as designed by an understudy of Frank Lloyd Wright.
We like to walk our dogs to the park by the lake, just about every day.
I remember how hard it was to buy this house.
We didn’t have the best credit but we qualified for the loan. Like many first time home buyers, we only had so much for a down payment and all the expenses of moving. Our accountant told us to be careful, we were biting off more than we could afford.
But I didn’t listen. Instead, I looked for ways to make this dream possible.
I worked long hours and weekends and I sold my my jeep and motorcycle but we still didn’t have quite enough money for everything. After Lynn’s dad saw the house, he said he wanted to help out with the down payment.
My father in law, Jim Newman was like a mentor to me. He was successful in business as the vice president of American Can Co. and he had a personality that made you smile and feel welcome.
When I talked to him, he would listen and say just the right things without a judgmental tone. I never had this with my dad.
I made this golf balll display case for Jim’s collection.
They raised their two sons and a daughter in Lake Forest IL. They taught them about saving and investing, the importance of a good education and being involved in the community and politics.
I knew little about money, my family was torn apart by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a cult religion. I barely graduated High school in 1975 – the year we were taught to believe Armageddon was coming – and I had never voted.
We came from completely different worlds. Jim was a well educated, white collar professional; I was a blue collar dusty carpenter without a clue.
Jim was a pillar of the community and he had many friends. Everyone liked him. I’m sure he dreamed of the day Lynn, a daughter of the American Revolution, would marry a successful Lake Forest business man with all the credentials and a normal family.
Not a long haired kid from California in street roller skates.
But, he must have seen a diamond in the rough in me.
We had breakfast together every Sunday at The Egg Harbor Cafe in Lake Forest and we spent many vacations with them.
I remember how he would bring out things to look at like an old Silver dollar or gold coin from his collection, his dad’s old receipt pad from his electrical business with a phone number # 18 on it. On time, it was a 1930s pad lock that his grandfather used on a box full of tools that brought back memories and made him smile.
As time passed, he would hand write a little note about the items and give them to me at Christmas or birthdays.
Thanks to Jim, I’ve learned to love history through the feel of an old coin, the stories of times past, and the dynamic of being included in his wonderful family.
He passed away a few years ago and I think of him every day. I know he was proud of me, like I was his own son. I sure miss him.
Once he showed me his coin collection, I started buying silver dollars whenever I could. I even became friends with the nice old man that owned the little store called, The Old World Coin Shop in downtown Kenilworth.
Back then, they were only $4- 5 dollars each so I would buy eight at a time, just about every week; no particular reason other than eight silver dollars fit in my hand perfectly. The weight was impressive and the sound when they slid together reminded me of a good night of poker. As I looked at them, they would shine brightly and reveal the incredible art of Lady Liberty or The American Eagle.
After 20 years of remodeling every inch of this house, I look back at all the time spent together as a family, discussing the latest changes or future plans, like paint colors, over breakfast and coffee. The house became a common ground to share and guide us about money, not overbuilding (epic fail), and living within our means.
I loved it when Jim would come and visit to see the progress and smile at me. He knew I would succeed. In many ways, this home is a big part of him.
We scrimped and saved and used recycled materials like windows, beams, oak flooring and trim. We did what we could and never borrowed money to rebuild, hence the reason it’s taken over 22 years.
To me, it was never about investing in real estate or making money.
It turned out it was about a journey with my true family and, with the help of a few friends,
to finish a project that represents a life time of memories it created.
Might be a good idea to also thank my dear wife, Lynn for putting up with all my dust.
There are several posts in my profile of our house. I hope you like them. Thank you.
In Loving memory of Jim and my mother in law, Shirley who recently passed away.
My ol’ shop dog, Kasey who lived to 15 1/2 yrs old,
Abbey girl who died suddenly at 8 1.2 years old.
Our 20 yr. old cat, Tess, my little garden buddy.
And Jack, one of the coolest dogs you would’ve ever met.
On a good note, we have a new member of the family.
His name is Tyler.
.....my new little garden/ woodshop buddy.