Buyer returns home to its former owner

Sunday, November 16, 2003

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A man who bought a home from Dauphin County for $15,000 agreed to give it back to the elderly woman who has lived there for more than five decades there after learning she was being evicted for failing to pay $572 in property taxes.

The buyer, Philip J. Dobson, offered to return the home during a meeting in county offices Thursday afternoon with the woman's nephew, John Arndt, their lawyers and county officials, Arndt said.

"I expected to go to court and I expected to win," said Arndt, whose fight to get back his aunt's home was publicized locally over the past week. "But I didn't expect what Mr. Dobson did. He put no strings on the offer at all."

Dobson will get his money back from the county.

The reddish-brown farmhouse in Hershey was home to 89-year-old Helene Shue for 55 years. The homestead and the 40 acres around it are situated on a two-lane state highway a few miles west of the Hersheypark amusement park.

County officials said a $572 tax bill from 2001 was never paid and auctioned off the home in September at a county tax sale for $15,000 -- the same amount the family paid for it in 1948.

Shue had no idea that she was facing eviction until Arndt received an anonymous telephone call last week.

Arndt hired an attorney, who filed a court petition arguing that Shue was never properly informed of the taxes she owed because notices were addressed to her husband, Clayton, who died in 1995.

Man wins sweepstakes after years of entering

KELOWNA, British Columbia -- It wasn't easy to notify Gerry Parker that he had won a magazine sweepstakes.

A courier couldn't deliver a letter to notify Parker that he had won more than $100,000 after the 71-year-old retired real estate agent and his wife Dianna, 57, were told to leave their home during a forest fire in September.

The Parkers stayed with friends and relatives, worrying about their home and belongings and unaware of the windfall on the way.

When the evacuation order was lifted, they found their home intact and a message on their answering machine from a courier company about an attempt to deliver an envelope.

Unaware of the contents, Parker waited a couple of days before driving to pick it up. Back in his car, he opened the letter and learned he had won a Reader's Digest customer appreciation sweepstakes.

If he responded quickly, the letter said, he would double his winnings.

On Oct. 7 -- one month to the day after police knocked on his door and told him he had an hour to evacuate -- Parker received two checks for about $58,000 each.

"I just about fell off my chair," Parker said Wednesday.

Parker said he had been a Reader's Digest subscriber for almost as long as he can remember and responds to all of its sweepstakes offers.

"My wife has been laughing at me for years for wasting all that money on stamps," Parker said. "Well, she's not laughing now."

-- From wire reports

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