One of the most senior victims of the Woolsey Fire—if not the eldest—has resorted to selling her beloved art collection in an effort to pay rent at an assisted living home. Pat Weisel, aged 95, was living with her daughter in the Seminole Springs mobile home park when the Woolsey Fire hit. They escaped with the clothes on their backs and little else. Weisel said she lost just about everything, including a blood pressure monitor and other essentials. The two bounced from friends in Malibu to motels in Inglewood and Brentwood until finally landing through an online fundraiser to Meadowbrook Senior Living in Agoura Hills where, Weisel said, “I’ve been very happy for the last year.”
But because the costs of assisted living facility are greater than Weisel’s previous living arrangement, she is unable to cover her monthly rent.
“This is quite a few more dollars than my income to say the least, and they’ve been very kind to me,” the nonagenarian explained. So, Weisel decided to sell her cherished art collection that luckily had been kept in storage and unharmed by the fire.
“The purpose of this show,” according to Jenni Campbell, executive director of the nonprofit LA Region Community Recovery Organization, “is that she’s trying to show that she’s resilient. She’s partnering with her community in her recovery. This is her lifetime collection [for which] she’s trying to find a new happy home.”
“I pay some of my own money,” Weisel commented, “but I don’t have that much and I had to replace everything.” Apparently, Weisel had no insurance and her daughter’s insurance didn’t cover her.
“You never expect it to hit you,” Weisel commented with resignation. “It’s like starting from scratch with slippers, robes, shoes—the whole works. It’s rather daunting.” The 95-year-old said she actually felt guilty being placed in Meadowbrook when so many of her friends lost their houses.
“It was painful to know how people lost everything,” she continued. “It’s a hard thing to go through. People are still grieving and needing help.” More than 100 neighbors lost their homes in Weisel’s community. Her daughter managed to find housing in Woodland Hills.
To pay for her own housing, Weisel is ready to part with the art she started collecting in the 1950s—signed prints, oil paintings, water colors and various other works.
She described the 40 pieces as “rather eclectic.” There are works originating from Santa Fe, “by some of the well-known artists of the time.” The very spry and active Weisel said she’s researched the art and its worth—”I’m documenting everything so people will know when they buy.”
Weisel and her daughter are still sorting through the art and other belongings found in storage.
“It’s been a long, hard process,” she described.
Last Wednesday the art sale was scheduled to take place at Meadowbrook, but at the last minute was postponed because Weisel was hospitalized with respiratory issues she’s been experiencing since the fire. She and her friends are planning a rescheduling in January.
As an active resident at Meadowbrook, Weisel regularly visits the local library and holds a foreign film night weekly at the facility. She relayed an interesting part of her own life, when she worked as a social worker in New York as a young woman in the ‘50s. Her beat was in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which at that time was “a rough neighborhood.”
Weisel shared that was tasked with delivering an invitation to Eleanor Roosevelt, who was to be honored by her employers for doing charitable work. When Weisel knocked at the door of the former First Lady’s apartment she was stunned when Mrs. Roosevelt herself opened it.
“You can imagine a young woman looking at one of her idols shaking her hand. She was so gracious,” Weisel recalled.
In early January, social networking groups will be posting details of the rescheduled date for Weisel’s art sale.
Donations can be sent in Pat Weisel ‘s name to:
Meadowbrook Senior Living
5217 Chesebro Rd
Agoura Hills, CA 91301
Attention: Troy Byington - Executive Director
“Meadowbrook, and specifically Troy [Byington], have been a priceless partner in our efforts to keep Pat ensconced within the community she loves while living in a delightful, safe and comfortable atmosphere that is central to her friends, the Agoura Recreation Center, her doctors and all that has become familiar in her life,” Campbell wrote.
Donations to other Woolsey victims can be sent to LA Region Community Recovery Organization, larcro.org.