Hell of a Guy

Mr. Johnson, Luke and Justin…


You all have read about The Farm and have seen photographs of it from time to time posted here.  This place isn’t anything special insofar modern housing goes, but it is comfortable and it is spacious.  The total square footage of the living space, including the very large basement is just under 6600 square feet.  We have room to move around, for sure!

The original part of this house was constructed in 1912, so we are told.  This modest home was a Sears Kit Home, meaning it was a “mail order” kit shipped by Sears Roebuck to this site and constructed.  The house had three bedrooms, a living room and dining room and a kitchen and was maybe 1400 sq. ft.  There was no bathroom or closets, and only a crawl space under the house.  The whole farm had about 120 acres of rolling pasture and crop fields.

Around 1972 the land and this old house were purchased by the Groff family.  They had planned to subdivide it into 20-acre parcels and purchase the farm with friends as a corporation.  The “partners” backed out one by one, and the Groffs bought it on their own and built a weekend retreat about a quarter of a mile away from this one in one of the few wooded spots on the property.

In comes Mr. Johnson.  He was a co-worker of Mr. Groff’s, and had an interest in this old house.  He wanted to buy it and renovate it.  As I understand it, he owned a house in the village of Berkeley Springs, as well as one in Florida.  This house was to be a place he and his wife could bring their older children and their families on occasions.  The renovations were begun; Mr. Johnson was in his late 70’s at the time.

The old house was put on jacks and raised up so a basement could be dug, and it was, and the result is about 3000 square feet of it.  Three additions were added – a master bedroom suite (25’X25’), a family room (20’X30’) and a sun room (15’X20’).  All of this construction was completed in the late 80’s, early 90’s.  While most of the work was done very professionally, I can see where some corners were cut.  Old doors were used in some places, the sink in the basement appears to have been salvaged from somewhere and brought here, as were some light fixtures, even some of the woodwork.  But all in all, Mr. Johnson made a nice job of it.  One nice renovation is the indoor plumbing that includes three full baths and two half baths.

One day after working outside on a project, I suppose yard work of some kind Mr. Johnson came into the house and sat at the dining room table.  Mrs. Johnson told him she had some ground beef thawed and asked if a hamburger would be good for his dinner.  He said fine and asked her to bring him something to drink.  When she did, she found him dead seated at the table, the same spot where our table is located today.

This week while four of our grandchildren were here visiting us for Thanksgiving I told two of the boys Mr. Johnson’s story, and pointed out to them the location of his demise.  It just so happens they slept here in this room that very night.  Being the nasty old devilish grandfather I am supposed to be, I embellished the story telling them of some fictitious, strange occurrences and happenings we have witnessed – like noises and stuff.

Apparently, the boys took the stories to heart.  Luke woke up in the middle of the night needing to use the bathroom, which is maybe fifty feet or less from where he was sleeping in a chair.  While there are a number of low-wattage lights on throughout this level of house all the time, Luke was afraid to make the trip alone, so he woke up his older brother to go with him.  Justin, 13, was not amused, but did the brotherly thing.  Mission accomplished, Luke went back to sleep.  Justin, however, did not.  While he did not admit being uncomfortable laying in the dark in the room where some guy croaked, I kind of get idea it began to bother him as he lay there thinking about it.

This is how I found the boys in Saturday morning when I got up:

I entitled the photo “He Ain’t Heavy; He’s My Brother.”

And that is all I have to say about that… 

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