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Embracing the family home

Memories - and a desire to stay active - make this 6-bedroom in Lansdowne just right for one person.

Frances Shultz's and her dog Bettie in the front living room with library of her home in Lansdowne.(Ron Tarver / Staff Photographer)
Frances Shultz's and her dog Bettie in the front living room with library of her home in Lansdowne.(Ron Tarver / Staff Photographer)Read more

Maintaining a property - all that time and effort - can be a daunting prospect at first. But over the years, the work invested can create a special bond between a house and its owner, and many fond memories.

When Fran Schultz's husband, Ed, passed away four years ago, she began to contemplate her future in the large 1896 Queen Anne they had shared and worked on for almost 40 years.

Afraid that keeping up the six-bedroom, two-bath house might be too much, Schultz considered moving.

"I thought that I would like something that was not hard to take care of, something smaller," she says. "I wanted to go to the city, and I looked at several different condos there."

So, with an eye to boosting her house's value in a soft market - and to satisfy her own urge for change - Schultz had her kitchen and a bathroom remodeled.

She also began scraping and painting walls, just as she and Ed had done when they moved there in 1968. "There was always a ladder up somewhere around the house," she says. "We were always working on something."

As the look of the place changed yet again, so did something else: Schultz decided it wasn't time to say goodbye to the house after all.

"It's a sense of history, all that has gone on in this house, all the things that my husband and I did here," she says. "And maybe it's a feeling that something has been accomplished, that together we made it so livable."

Over four decades, a lot happened, of course. The Schultzes' three sons grew up, moved out, and started families of their own. She went back to school and had a 27-year teaching career.

Through it all, the work needed to keep the house in order was the one constant. When Schultz's mother first saw the house, she warned her daughter, "It looks like you're getting a house and a hobby, too."

That prediction turned out to be accurate, but Schultz takes on the hard work with a positive outlook.

"A large home does keep you physically active, especially having three floors, so that is definitely a plus," she says. "I knew I wouldn't be bored."

Each morning, after reading newspapers and walking Bette, her lively four-year-old standard poodle, Schultz gets to it. Some days, she is outside mowing the lawn or tending the garden; on others, she cleans or paints inside.

"Anytime you tackle a job, you think it's going to take forever, but somehow it's never as bad as you think," she says. "Even if it looks awful, I know I'm going to get it done."

Though she has a neighbor willing to lend a hand - son Matt lives two doors down - Schultz rarely asks for help.

"She is a very independent person," says Matt Schultz. "Her house is reflective of who she is. She's made it so it would be comfortable for her."

In fact, Fran Schultz made every curtain, drape, and lamp shade in the house. She's a lifelong artist, and some rooms feature paintings she did at local art classes.

She also indulges in one of her favorite hobbies, redecorating.

"I like that it's a big home so I can change it, change the furniture, move things around," she says. "My family always used to say that changing furniture around was my favorite indoor sport."

Lansdowne's big houses and small-town feel are what drew the Schultzes when their first home was taken by construction of the Blue Route.

"This house was different from so many other houses because of its age and layout," Fran Schultz says. "And I like the town of Lansdowne because it's only one mile square and it's something you can get your hands on."

Matt Schultz, who has written books on Lansdowne's history, says it's not uncommon for families to stay put. "It's a multigenerational town. People put down roots here, and the roots are very strong."

The Schultzes see each other almost every day - on planned outings to the movies, or when Matt's daughter drops by for a chat with her grandmother, or during chance encounters and impromptu get-togethers.

"I'm glad that she stayed," Matt Schultz says. "It's a unique thing for my 15-year-old daughter to have her grandmother two doors down. We have an extended family not under one roof, but in very close proximity."

Family and community ties have kept Fran Schultz in the house she loves for now, but she often thinks about her options for the future.

"I'm very fond of this house," she says. "There will come a day when I may have to move from this home, and I'm sure that will be a sad day, very much so."

But as she remains active in her retirement years, that day seems to be far off.

"As long as I'm healthy, I don't mind taking care of it," she says. "I'm always glad to come home to it, even though I miss my husband terribly. But I can always look at it with an eye for changing something, for making something better."

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