NEWS

Cancer survivor and veteran faces foreclosure on home

Cathy Conley

“I will never leave this home. It has been my family homestead for 53 years. They will have to send the sheriff to get me out. I will wear my army uniform. I will carry a flag. I will have my husband by my side.”

These are the words of Marsha O’Loughlin in the living room of her home at 92 Town St.

The bank has just notified Marsha and her husband Ron that it is putting the home up for sale on Dec. 12.

If it is not sold, the house goes up for auction on Jan. 3.

Marsha was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2006 and required chemotherapy and radiation.

This was followed by an operation for fibroid tumors, a cyst on her ovaries, and a severe bout with colitis.

A nurse, Marsha is the breadwinner of the family.

Ron is on disability.

Because of her illnesses, Marsha could not work.

She contacted her mortgage company asking for help.

From March until July, she received form letters each month telling her how much she owed,including late fees.

Debt was mounting as Marsha battled her cancer.

The couple offered partial payment.

The mortgage company sent the check back without any explanation, according to Marsha.

“We kept calling to find out what was going on. We kept getting different people,” she said.

“We asked if we could put the late payments at the end of the loan. We were told no.

“I asked one representative what we could do to save our house. She gave me a new monthly payment which was $500 more a month!”

After being “harassed,” in her words, for months, there was silence from the mortgage company despite Marsha and Ron’s countless phone calls.

Suddenly, the couple received a letter last week that said the bank was putting the house up for sale on Dec. 12.

A phone call soon afterwards said that if the house was not sold, it would be auctioned off in January.

Marsha’s family moved into the small blue house on Town Street in 1954.

She and her brother attended Braintree schools.

Marsha graduated from Braintree High School in 1969 and went on to become a licensed practical nurse.

In the ensuing years, she married, moved to Holbrook, had a son and daughter, and later divorced.

Fifteen years ago, she met Ron O’Loughlin in a church basement in Holbrook where a group of citizens were meeting because a nearby closed chemical plant, Baird & McGuire, had been named the 14th most dangerous Superfund site in the country.

They were acting as the watchdog group for the cleanup.

Ron was a Randolph native who studied electronics in high school and then spent the next eight years first in the Navy and then in the Air Force as a nuclear weapons specialist.

After leaving the service, he spent the next several years as an electronics expert in the business world.

On Dec. 26, 1992, Ron and Marsha married.

They left Holbrook and moved to Arizona, where they set up housekeeping for the next several years.

Homesickness crept in.

Ron’s parents were aging and needed help.

Marsha’s mother had died of breast cancer in 1988. Her father was struggling to maintain his home alone.

Marsha wanted to be near her children. who were living with their father.

The couple moved to Nashua, New Hampshire.

Marsha spent her life working as a nurse and traveling to Braintree to care for her father, but this would not last for long.

Soon after the couple moved to Nashua, they lost both of Ron’s parents and Marsha’s father, all within a period of nine months

In November, 2003, Marsha’s father had a fatal heart attack in the kitchen of the home where he had lived for 49 years. He was 85.

Ron and Marsha decided to move into the house of her childhood.

“I felt my father’s presence there,” she said.

It was paid for, but Marsha took out a mortgage to pay off her brother for his half of the house andmake much needed improvements.

“We never had enough hot water. My mother would boil pans of water so we could take baths,” she said.

For the next three years, Ron and Marsha settled into a comfortable life, although during this time Ron became disabled and now can only work part-time.

Marsha continued working as a nurse and paying the bills.

On Oct. 3, 2006, tragedy struck.

“I found out that I had a lump in my right breast,” Marsha said. “I had a lumpectomy on Oct. 26. The biopsy came back and I was told that I would need chemotherapy and radiation.

“I also had been having pelvic pain.An ultrasound showed that I had fibroid tumors and a cyst. I needed a second surgery. It was done on Dec. 21. I was home two days before Christmas.

“I started chemotherapy in January. I had my second chemotherapy on Feb. 28 and unfortunately became ill and was hospitalized from March 5 until March 14 with colitis.

“I realized that I would not be able to return to work and would need to take a medical leave of absence. I asked my husband to send a letter to our mortgage lender and ask for help. We would supply any medical documentation.

“From March until July, we received form letters informing us of what we owed, plus ate fees. They would accept no partial payments, and if payment was not made, they said they would start foreclosure proceedings.

“I spoke to so many customer service representatives and would have to explain the situation over and over again.

“During this time, I feel that both my husband and I were put through undue stress and aggravation while going through my treatments.

“I spoke to a supervisor in June and asked if the late payments could be put to the end of the loan, and she told me that was not their policy.

“The only thing that she offered was a repayment plan making my payments $500 more than what they already are. I asked her how was that helping me when I was already three months behind.”

In August, Marsha received a letter from the collection team of the mortgage company stating that “if you have been laid off from your job or had a medical situation, we can help and have different options.”

Marsha said, “I said to my husband, ‘We have to work with them, but it leaves a real bad taste in my mouth.’

“In September, we were notified from the resolution team to send a hardship letter with expenses and income, which we did.

“After that, we did not receive anything in the mail or any phone calls to inform us of any decision.

“My husband left several messages which were not returned.

“Finally, we sent a fax to our contact person and received a call informing us that we had a new contact person.

“Last month, we received another letter from another person in the resolution team asking for the same information.”

Then there was silence.

On Dec. 4, the silence was broken.

The couple received letters from a law firm, informing them that foreclosure was starting Jan. 3.

“We also received a message to call the mortgage company. I did and was told by a customer service representative that our home was to be put up for sale on Dec. 12.”

The couple owes $25,000 plus late charges.

Both Marsha and Ron are veterans.

Marsha still serves with the 399th Combat Support Hospital in Taunton as a first sergeant. She has served since 1980.

At the age of 55, when her unit was called up to go to Iraq, Marsha begged to go with them but was refused because of a service-related injury.

Both Ron and Marsha are volunteers for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Before Marsha’s illness, the couple went to Georgia for 10 days to help in the relief effort after Hurricane Ivan.

Ron recently spent 45 days in New Jersey in a relief effort for flooding after a huge rainstorm.

“I refuse to lose my home,” Marsha said. “I will not give up without making our plight known. I know that we are not the only ones in this situation.

“I want everybody to know what banks and mortgage companies are doing to people in difficult situations that were unforeseeable.

“I only hope that the banks and mortgage companies change their policies, help people dealing with medical situations or any type of unemployment issues, and be more understanding, helpful, and flexible.”