By JUDI SWOGGER
NEWS On the Green
Nancy Ryhal-McLaughlin had been pushing trustees to demolish the house at 8072 Wheeler St. in Masury for two years. Yet, when demo day finally arrived, she sat on her front porch across the street, awash in mixed emotions.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” said the one-time owner of the house as she watched a John Deere excavator, operated by Ryan Sereday of contractor Sereday’s Inc., claw through the remains of the demolished building May 15. Sereday’s was hired by the township to demolish the building.
“My husband and I raised three boys there,” she said of the home her parents bought for them and which they fixed up for their family. “I can still see my oldest son taking his first steps there – at 10 months old!”
“I’m a wreck today,” she said, watching it come down.
Ryhal-McLaughlin said she sold the home to Earl Sweeney, who lived in it for a number of years until he died in 2017 at the age of 80. The building had sat vacant since them, enduring acts of theft and vandalism and deteriorating with each passing month, she said.
Thieves stole the washer, dryer, furnace and hot water tank, she said. “They stole the refrigerator –pulled the food out of it and threw it all over.”
Once the roof began leaking, the building’s deterioration accelerated, and other problems set in or got worse.
Ryhal-McLaughlin said the building became rife with black mold. That aggravated her COPD, she said, noting she couldn’t open her windows or sit on her porch during nice weather because of the wafting smell of mold.
“It’s like I was in prison,” Ryhal-McLaughlin said.
Still, she wasn’t going anywhere.
“I’m on third-generation land here; I’ve lived up here all my life,” said Ryhal-McLaughlin, 66, noting the home her parents owned, where she “was conceived, born and grew up,” is next door to where she lives now.
“It was all family up here, back in the day,” she said.
The house to the east of where 8072 stood belonged to her aunt and uncle, and later some cousins. Ryhal-McLaughlin’s fiancé, Ron Sanders, said that house should come down next.
“It’s full of black mold,” he said.
As she talked, Ryhal-McLaughlin showed a photo she kept beside her throughout the demolition. Taken on a summery day in 1988, it shows a charcoal gray/blue house with white trim. Flower planters hang outside the windows. Small American flags are perched on one side. Folding chairs on the front porch sit ready to welcome family and friends.
“It was a nice little house,” she said.
When she left it, she brought a peony bush and another bush with her and planted them in her new yard.
As she watched the excavator clear the last of the overgrown vegetation along the front of the property and smooth out the dark earth over what was once her family’s home, Ryhal-McLaughlin was asked how she felt now that the work was almost done.
“The neighborhood will be better, and so will my health,” she said. “Now, it smells like God’s green earth.”
The photo of the house prior to demolition is contributed.