Sunday 2 August 2015

Under One Roof: A Real Life "Up" House

"This is where I want to die.  Right in my own home.  On the couch." (Edith Macefield)

Edith died in 2008, at the age of 86, in her house just like she wanted. And she left her little house to Barry.

I'll never forget taking my children to the theatre to seed the movie Up and being mesmerized by the 3D images of a cookie cutter house rising into the air pulled by a colourful bouquet of balloons.  My heart went out to the main character, Carl, a crochety old man with thick glasses and a quad cane, who refused to sell his beloved house to a construction company, even as the neighbourhood encroached on him.  

I had no idea that the Up house was loosely based on a real house in Seattle, Washington, and that the character, Carl, was based on a real life woman, Edith.  Edith owned a 108 year old farmhouse in a Seattle suburb which was being threatened by a high rise development.  She had been offered a million dollars for her property, but still refused to sell, emphatically stating:  "This is where I want to die.  Right in my own home.  On the couch." (

Born in Oregon in 1921, Edith Macefield lied about her age to join the service overseas.  After her lie was discovered, Edith remained in England to care for orphans, only returning to the United States when her mother fell ill.  Edith nursed her mom, promising to keep her in her home, rather than placing her in a nursing home.  It was there that she died.  Edith wanted to leave this world the same way.

However, the Seattle high rise construction company had other ideas.  In 2006, they offered Edith one million dollars for her property which she promptly turned down.  When they arrived with their noisy crane, she turned up the volume on her television set, reminding them that she lived through a world war.  

Enter Barry Martin, the head of the construction company.  He intorduced himself to Edith hoping to change her mind and get her to sell.  In the end, she changed his mind.  It started with a friendship.  Edith would talk about her extensive music collection and of how she escaped the Nazis during the Second World War.  Then Edith fell tragically ill with pancreatic cancer.  Barry started taking her to doctor appointments.  Then he starte dhsopping for her.  Then he started fedding her and helping her clean herself.  And before he knew it, he was her chief caregiver.

Edith passed away in the cookie cutter house in 2008, at the age of 86.  Since her only son had passed away of meningitis at 13, she left her house to Barry.

Note:  For more information read Barry Martin's book Under One Roof:  Lessons I Learned from a Tough Old Woman in a Little Old House

In Seattle, the story of this house had a very similar plot.

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