Dallas senior won't leave burned-out home

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on September 17, 2012 at 10:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 8 at 6:36 PM

DALLAS — Vernon Freeman’s home barely stands, but he can’t seem to let it go.

Since it caught fire seven months ago, the 85-year-old great-grandfather has spent his days sitting outside the burned out house he shared with his family for more than 50 years.

“I ain’t got no limit on wanting to come home,” Freeman said from his usual perch on the front porch of the residence on Marfa Avenue in Dallas.

Burn marks still scar the exterior; its windows are boarded up.

“I want to come home as quick as I can," Freeman said.

He’s now living with his son, but feels most comfortable spending his days at the old home. The sight of Freeman sitting helplessly outside the destroyed structure strikes neighbors and saddens his family.

“He was here every day... I mean, every day,” said a tearful granddaughter Marcia Graves, 41. “Seeing this house like this, it hurts. It really hurts.”

Back in March, Freeman remembers waking to find his home burning. He and his family escaped unharmed, but the flames and smoke from the electrical fire damaged every room in the two-bedroom home built in 1951.

“I don’t have nothing left,” Freeman said. He even lost his hearing aids, making him nearly deaf. “There is nothing left but what you see in there now.”

Freeman didn’t have insurance, and cannot afford to restore the home. He spent years working as a carpenter and is deeply respected in his South Dallas neighborhood, where many remember him fondly as the local handyman.

“If they had money or didn’t have money — either way, he fixed the problem,” said neighbor Valda Wayne, who said Freeman often did small repairs on her parents’ home. “He done help everybody do something to their house, and now it’s like nobody is coming to help Mr. Freeman.”

She and others want that to change, hoping someone will step forward to help Freeman make repairs.

Freeman maintains a positive attitude. He’s quick to smile and wave to passing neighbors and is unaccustomed to needing help.

“I ain’t done nothing else but work,” he insisted. “Everything I own, I got by working.”

Vernon Freeman is still working, and has attempted to repair what he can.

The house has been gutted and cleaned. He even recently scaled the roof to cut back tree limbs. But even he admits this job has reached his limit.

“I couldn’t fix it; I didn’t have nothing to fix it with,” he said. “I’ve been here 50 some-odd years... that’s all I know right here.”

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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