House Holds Memories of Mom
By Brad Franklin
It’s a tale of hope. Of heart break. Of love and compassion, where the loss of a loved one was softened by the special attention given by a pair of home builders that quickly became family.
Heather Taylor’s mother, Jean Dick, had been diagnosed with stage-four ovarian cancer in May 2006. The need for future care led Heather and her husband, Charlie, to sell their home and move in with Jean in King’s Charter.
The family of four, including the Taylors’ two sons - 6-year-old Brandon and 3-year-old Zach – would be there for Jean.
“It was what we had to do because she was going to need care,” Heather says.
But Jean was a rather independent woman and being taken care of wasn’t something she resigned herself to easily. So, she and her daughter, along with home builders Mike Krickovic and Rusty Ziegler, came to a compromise, a way for Jean to hold on to some of her independence while also allowing easy access for Heather and Charlie.
“She was really as hands-on in this whole thing as she could be,” Heather said. “And it really meant the world to her, all of this."
For Krickovic and Ziegler, knowing Jean’s time frame was short, they had to put things together fast.
“Normally, for a custom built home, it takes anywhere from six and a half to eight months to build,” Ziegler said. “And here we were shooting for five.”
“She just loved them,” Heather said.
When Krickovic and Ziegler leave, there are no waves. They get hugs. It’s an impressive after-thought that speaks volumes about the way in which the builders approached the Taylor home.
“When they were helping us design the house, they’d do anything and everything,” Heather says. “And when Mom wanted to go along to the different places we were looking at, Rusty would hold her hand or Mike would tend to her. It was the sweetest thing.”
After a series of drawings and visits to other homes, the Taylors settled on a suite connected to the house.
Then it became one large room with space for a bedroom, sitting room, and adjoined bathroom. A large window, surrounded by shelves, would be Jean’s portal to the world.
The builders laid out a time table, down to the smallest detail, and Jean would call them up to see where the progress was.
“She was as driven about making it into this house as anybody,” Heather said. “And they made sure to answer anything and everything.”
Starting construction at the end of January, the builders had tabbed July 6 as move in day. But as Jean’s cancer went from bad to worse, turning aggressive in the latter part of 2006, the builders did everything they could to keep pace.
“They literally dropped everything to do this house,” Charlie recalled.
Heather remembered Ziegler and Krickovic coming to visit Jean in the hospital and tellingher to hold on. “And Rusty told her they were three weeks ahead of schedule,” Heather said.
Shortly after viewing the house, which had just gotten its frame, in March, Jean entered the hospital for the final time. She passed away April 21 at the age of 53.
It’s been three months since Jean lost her battle and the memories and feelings are as real now as they were then.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Heather said. “But I don’t know what I would’ve done without this place, this home.”
Just as Heather directed all of her energy into the house while it was being built, she now focuses on her new goal: license plates.
“They call ovarian cancer the silent killer because you only hear about it after someone passes away,” she said. “But I thought there had to be something I could do.”
So she’s gotten started putting together a proposal to have specialized license plates that raise awareness, which she hopes she’ll be able to take to the General Assembly this winter.
But her biggest source of inspiration lies at the end of Scots Landing Road, where the family is now settling in to their new home.
“They built us a home with love in the foundation,” Heather said.
From the first day, the Taylors say, the builders cared deeply not only for their work but also for the family.
“Even after she had passed, they could’ve slowed down but they didn’t,” Heather said. “And that meant so much.”
Added Charlie, “They built us a lot more than a house.”
From the ground up, Heather says Krickovic and Ziegler gave the home a definition that most don’t have.
“What they did not only helped Mom with what she was going through but it also helped us with what we were going through and still are,” Heather added.
“This is still my happy place and it always will be.”