Herald Net

Published: Friday, June 11, 2004

D-Day widow struggles with leaky roof

By Kristi O'Harran

This is the best we can do for a D-Day widow? Norma Fredlund, 79, of Lynnwood may have to move out of her mobile home after 10 years because she can't afford to fix the roof.

Even if she moves out, she would have to pay to have the dilapidated mobile home demolished.

She can't afford either option.

Fredlund lives on less than $900 a month, and her rent is $437. There is no money to fix the roof, or to move out and dismantle her home so a new mobile home can be placed on her rented corner spot.

"I don't want to move," Fredlund said. "I'm comfortable here."

The management company for Serene Terrace Mobile Homes Park Inc. has set a Tuesday deadline for her to arrange to get her roof fixed.

Mike Sanders, a spokesman for the Reis Group in Bellevue, said they needed to pin Fredlund down to a firm date.

"All we're asking this woman to do is take care of the problem she has created by lack of attention to her unit," Sanders said. "I have no influence on how she lives inside her four walls. My only concern is if they are creating a problem for a neighboring tenant or an eyesore."

Sanders said he has worked with Fredlund ever since her roof problem surfaced in 2002. At that time, he said, she assured him the roof would be fixed.

"We try to work with our tenants," he said. "We're not the landlords in the cloak and the black hat."

Sanders said Fredlund could try to sell her 37-year-old mobile home, but a park inspection revealed the roof system was rotten.

Her roof is now covered with a gray tarp, and there is no gutter around the tarp, so runoff from the roof creates a problem for the space downhill.

Senior Services of Snohomish County made a temporary repair that stopped water from running down the inside walls. I was hoping Senior Services could take another look at the problem, but I was disappointed to hear housing director Tim Mierau say that under federal rules, his agency can only spend up to $1,500 per problem each year, and the Fredlund bucket is empty.

"She is one of those frustrating cases," Mierau said. "We've encouraged her to be on a waiting list for housing projects. We kind of insisted she be on a list. We said we'll tarp it as long as we can."

The tarp has to go. According to a letter from her landlord, Fredlund has to produce a signed contract for repairs to the roof and the installation of gutters and downspouts by Tuesday.

The letter was signed by the resident manager, who referred questions to Sanders and the Reis Group.

"Please understand that you are in violation of your lease and park rules by not proceeding with the repairs," the letter says.

"I have been patient and waited for you to take care of this matter on your own. Now, however, things must get done."

Sanders was unaware that Fredlund was the widow of Gerald Gandee, who died a week after landing on the beach at Normandy, France, on D-Day during World War II. Gandee was with the U.S. Army Infantry Regiment 90th Infantry Division. The 20-year-old's white cross is at Normandy American Cemetery, plot D, row 6, grave 31 in France.

His widow never made the trip to France to see the memorial. She was busy raising her baby and a toddler after the telegram arrived about the death of her husband. She remarried for a short time, thus the different last name.

Her two grown sons are not able to financially help their mother with the repairs, she said. I suggested she move in with one of them, but the tiny woman arched her back in response.

"I'm still mobile," Fredlund said. "I don't want to live with them."

Being spunky isn't getting her any closer to keeping her address, however. Not only might she have to move, she may have to pay to have the mobile razed, to the tune of $4,000.

Her predicament is not unique.

"These old mobiles that are designed to be in use 20 to 25 years before major repairs are now well past that," Mierau said. "A lot of our programs are doing Band-Aids."

He estimates that more than half of his clients live in mobile homes. Mierau had no suggestions for the widow regarding other agencies that might be able to lend a hand.

Tuesday's deadline frightens Fredlund. She isn't a crier, but she is angry.

Fredlund said her dream is to go out of this world in some comfort. But it might not be in her beloved mobile home.

Columnist Kristi O'Harran: 425-339-3451 or