I have never sat down with my family to talk about my ten years residency in California. I met a lot of people; a few I remember vividly and others were like a dream that faded away over the years. But there are two women I shall never forget. These women, strikingly, were similar. They both experienced similar losses, and the source of their losses were consistent, and they were employed at the same company. But the most striking similarity is that they had the same first name, Ann.
I will begin with my acquaintance with the first Ann I met in 1976. I shall refer to her as Ann #1. 1976, my ex-husband and I moved from Bakersfield California to Los Angeles, California. It was a culture shock living in Bakersfield. The city was a desert with many tumble weeds toppling all over the place. And for the first time in my life, I saw a cotton field. Of course no one I talked with in Bakersfield believed me especially since I was from the south. Also, Bakersfield was known for country and western music. In fact, it was the home of Buck Owens, a well known Country singer. The population comprised of mostly Caucasians, Latinos, and a very few African Americans. Moreover, the temperature would reach 118 degrees on any given day. So, you get the picture why I wanted to move to a larger city comparable to Atlanta.
It was 1976, after relocating to Los Angeles, and getting hired at a hospital as a Screening Nurse when I met Ann #1. I supervised five nurses who were Licensed Practical Nurses; Ann was among the five nurses I supervised. She was a relatively tall woman 5ft 8 inches and she was in her mid fifties or early sixties. She was well- spoken, and her dress attire was immaculate. She had a large nose. Her nostrils would flare each time she spoke. She had a very deep baritone voice, and if you spoke to her over the phone, she could have easily been mistaken as a male. She had coarse hair. However, she always looked as if she just left the coiffure, and not to mention her nails. They were sculptured and polished with different colors depending on what color she was wearing. I was curious about the nurses I supervised. Each of them shared their personal stories with me. Ann was no exception. She was strong-will. She would often challenge me when I made decisions, and she questioned many of them. Ann lost her husband two- years earlier while in combat in the Vietnam War. She would become teary-eyed when she spoke of him; the tone of her voice would change from its normal baritone to a high squeaky tone each time she talked about him, and the love the two shared. It escapes my memory how they met, but one thing I do remember: they had a long courtship, and the two loved each other dearly. She found solace when I asked her one day to bring me a picture, but I didn’t have to wait because she carried his picture in her wallet. They moved to Southern California during the late fifties when the purchases of homes were affordable. They bought a small stucco home in West Los Angeles. The house had two bedrooms, one and a half bath, and an enclosed screen porch. Shortly after they purchased it, her husband was deployed to Vietnam , and less than a year, he was killed in combat. Although it had been a little over a year since her husband’s demise, I was surprised to learn she remarried six months earlier. So, when I met her, she was a newlywed.
She kept her wedding picture of her second marriage on her desk after the nurses, who were much younger than she and I, wanted to see her wedding pictures. The picture showed her wearing a beautiful wedding gown as if it was her first marriage. This second husband appeared twenty years her junior. He was tall. He stood over 6 feet tall, and his eyes were light brown. She would marvel each time the young nurses teased her about those “sexy brown eyes.” He was muscular built with hardly no fat anywhere, and from the looks of the photo, he could have easily been a model. His name was David. I remember that name because the young nurses would tease her constantly about “Ann’s good looking husband, David.” After five months of employment, I went on to resign.
It would be ten years later when I would run into Ann at the neighborhood supermarket. She no longer looked like the well-groomed Ann I once knew with the freshly done hair and nails. Instead, she looked disheveled and slightly discombobulated as she gripped a large stack of what appeared to be legal papers in her right hand. She could have easily been mistaken to be homeless. We greeted each other with a hug. She wanted to know if I lived in the area, and she wanted to know where I was working. I shared with her that I purchased a condo up the street and I was working in North Hollywood. She explained she was still working at the hospital where we first met hoping to continue employment until she reached full age of retirement. I asked her to join me for lunch at my residence. I learned she depended upon public transportation because she did not have a car. I promised after lunch, I would drive her home.
Over lunch, Ann gave me an update of her life during the past ten- years. She divorced David and lost her home as a result of the divorce. I was perplexed because she owned the house prior to marrying him which should have been separate property. However, Ann explained to me since David was a general contractor, he convinced her to make improvement on the home because they needed more space, and he explained he could save her a lot of money because he could do the work. The house, without any improvements, appraised for millions because of its location, and the fact the prices of homes during the seventies in Southern California had skyrocketed in comparison to the rest of the country. Yet, after the improvements were made, there were mechanical liens placed on the house. Apparently, David failed to pay the workers. But it gets even worse. David convinced her to sell the house and to move in a larger home. Immediately, after they closed on the new home, he filed for divorce because he was entitled to half the house based on California’s law. I thought how painful it was as I listened to her tell her story. However, it became more painful when she told me the papers she had in her hands were legal papers she was in the process of filing with the Veterans Affairs Office in hopes to regain her first husband’s veteran’s benefits. Since she remarried, she lost her first husband’s benefits.
I thought how cruel this man was to disrupt someone’s life. Yet I understood when Ann went on to tell me her attorney conducted a background check on him and discovered he had married and divorced numerous other women. It was apparent this man made a career of targeting widowed women who were homeowners.
After we finished eating lunch, I drove Ann to the place she called home, a multi-unit apartment building. The building was located in an undesirable area in the southwestern area of Los Angeles. We said farewell. That was the last time I saw her. I think of her often wondering how she is doing because I believe since our last contact, the losses she encountered from her second marriage was greater than the death of her first.
I met Ann#2 the same year I met Ann #1. She worked at the same hospital in West Los Angeles. She, too, was a Licensed Practical Nurse. She was about 5ft 4 inches tall and weighed 125 pounds. From the time I have known her, she remained a size 8. If she gained one pound, she would exercise relentlessly to shed that one pound! In fact, she was so conscientious about her weight until she decided to convert one of her rooms in her house into a health spa with the latest equipments. The room was a complete replica of the professional spas. She had an oversized treadmill, a hot tub so large until a car could easily fit into it with ease. A bar lift, pulleys and numerous other equipment.
I met this Ann after she experienced one of the worst tragedy imaginable. She lost nearly all of her family to a bus fire. Her family planned annually family reunion trips. One year they decided to celebrate in Las Vegas, Nevada. During their travel, there was a butane tank on the back of the bus that ignited that caused a blaze of fire that spread throughout the entire bus. Some of her relatives were saved, but she lost her husband, mother, grandchildren, cousins and nieces and nephews. She had a noticeable large burn on one of her arms and her chest was scarred from repeated skin grafts. Ann and her husband moved to Los Angeles area during the early fifties. They proved to have been wise investors. They purchased a three-story apartment building in an affluent area in the metropolitan area of Los Angeles. In addition, they purchased a rental property in the same vicinity and not to mention their principal home that was huge. She had marble stone in the foyer.
These investments were no longer important to Ann after losing her family, she became very lonely and understandably, had to undergo psychiatric treatment. We would go out to dinner once a month, and occasionally we would attend church. But Ann became so lonely until she developed a relationship with a much younger man who was the same age of her son. He eventually moved in with her. But this moved proved to be unwise. The young man drove into her expensive sports car and damaged a lot of her expensive household goods. He proved to be a liability than an asset. So, I introduced her to one of my ex-husband’s co-workers who was an older gentleman who worked as an officer at a local bank. They dated for years. I would later relocate to Atlanta, but after moving to Atlanta, we continued to communicate with each other.
One day my hair stylist, Don, asked me to consider becoming an investor with him. He wanted to purchase a large building to start a hair styling business with other related services. The building he desired to purchase was in the downtown upscale area of Atlanta. He was asking $5,000.00 per investor. I told him I was not interested but I knew a person who may consider becoming an investor but I was not sure. I phoned Ann in his presence. He gave her an overview of the business plan. I thought she would give him a definite answer, but instead, she perceived the phone call to be social in nature. So a relationship began from that one phone call. Unfortunately for her, the relationship would be detrimental.
Ann came to Atlanta to see the property she was considering investing. She booked the ticket for two days, but once Don wined and dined her, and phoned her each evening upon her return to her hotel room, she decided to stay for two weeks. Don was a relative handsome young man who stood 6ft inches tall with mixed gray hair. He was from the north so his enunciation was compelling especially among southerners.
Don showed Ann his dream property. The property he longed to own some day. The property was located in an upscale area of town. The dream property consisted of two older frame houses. The total asking price was $400,000.00. Apparently, Don had made a good expression because Ann wanted to prove to him she could purchase both of the houses. She phoned her broker in California and expressed to her she wanted to sell her apartment building in Los Angeles to purchase the property in Atlanta. Her broker advised against it, but Ann insisted she begin the proceedings.
It would take a few months before the actual sale would take place. Once the escrow began, Ann returned to Los Angeles. Don promised her he would visit her. He visited her right after escrow was closed, but upon his arrival, he asked her for a loan of $10,000.00 to buy furniture for the business. Ann consented. Then he realized he needed money for startup so he asked her for an additional loan in the amount of $5,000.00.
Three months later, the sale was finalized, and Ann was the owner of two homes in Atlanta, and her apartment building she and her husband owned for years was sold. Don opened the business and marketed it as best he could. He realized since it was a new business, things would be slow. However, weeks turned into months, and yet there was no profit. Moreover, he could not pay rent. He was hopeful things would turnaround. However, less than six months, there was no indication he could remain in business and not to mention the additional $15,000.00 he borrowed. Ann became alarmed because she could no longer get in contact with Don. The houses were left abandoned and, the houses went into foreclosure. Interestingly, the original selling price of $400,000.00 was more than the value of the property. So the houses were sold less than $100,000.00. Don ceased communicating with Ann. Obviously, Ann had no choice but to write off her investment. $1,000.00 was the maximum amount she could claim as total loss of the nearly half million dollars she invested.
Things began to somewhat settle after Ann’s substantial loss. But unfortunately, the nightmare was about to rekindle. Approximately a year later, Ann invested overseas with another one of her acquaintances, the older gentleman who worked at the bank. She never told me what the business entailed but when you phone her at her residence, she would greet you with: “Lourdes of London.” This loss included her losing her rental home she and her former husband purchased because it was somehow linked to the overseas investment.
It would be months before I would hear from Ann. I assumed she was doing well. But she phoned me late one evening as a roll call. Meaning, she was polling her dearest friends who she believed prayers would be answered because she had another crisis.
One morning as she was preparing to go to work, she noticed there were two men walking on her property with a tape measure measuring her house. Before asking them what they were doing, she opened the door and demanded they get off her property. One of the men explained to her that she had applied for a loan, and the house was been appraised. She was shocked. She didn’t go to work that morning; instead, she had her lawyer to search the records in the courthouse to ascertain if there were outstanding loans and to research the title of ownership. It was revealed her house had many outstanding loans, but the most alarming thing, she did not own her house. The older gentleman had her to sign papers to quit claim the house over to him some months earlier to secure some investment scheme. As a result, her attorney filed suit against the elderly gentleman and placed a restraining order on any future loans.
The court Hearing was the following day of her phoning me. After her lawyer presented the case before the judge, he had mercy on her. He scolded her for placing trust in someone who was fraudulent and was none forthright. He told her legally she signed all rights to the only property she and her husband had worked for to this man, but he ruled in her favor to regain some of the money he had borrowed, and he canceled all of the outstanding loans. Finally, he ordered the return of the title to her. She was relieved. That was over twelve years ago. I have not heard from her since that time.
This Ann, I found to be more interesting of the two because she had over a million dollars in savings, and her assets were even greater. However, I noticed each time she and I attended worship service, she would put in a dollar when I scraped and placed a minimal of $5.00 in the general offering plate.
The lives of these two individuals have made me a much wiser individual. Although I did not reveal the true identity of these two women and other characters, the story is true. It is my wish that every woman who reads this article will become wiser as they seek the fulfillment of love.