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Home is where the hearts are

Posted: March 29, 2008 12:01 p.m.
Updated: May 30, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Carol Trumbo, right, shares a sentimental moment with DeDe Perez, one of the "family members" she will be parting ways with soon.

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There's a sign, of course. If you're looking, it tells you where to turn up the hill to find Trumbo's Welcome Home. But it's nothing much to catch the attention of those who are not looking, as their cars flash past on the lonely reaches of Sierra Highway in far-Canyon Country.

However, for those lucky few who were looking - for love, a home and their own place in the world - that sign pointed the way for more than 40 years.

Sadly, that will change in a few days.

Trumbo's Welcome Home, "A Family Home for the Developmentally Disabled," as the business card reads, will close in early April. The Trumbos will be moving up north to the Mt. Shasta area, and the ladies that made up the extended family they cared for all these years will be making their own new beginnings.

"The place may change, but the love will always stay the same," said Carol Trumbo.

Beginnings

The Trumbo Home has been an integral part of the local developmentally disabled community since 1962, when Jewell and Hilda Trumbo first opened it on five acres in Canyon Country. But the "home" was actually begun in 1958 in their house in Lennox, near the L.A. Airport.

Jewell Trumbo, 94, was working as an aircraft mechanic for Western Airlines at the time, and he said that Hilda Trumbo (who died in 2006) had been working for the Torrance School District and "didn't think they were doing what they should with handicapped kids." This included their developmentally disabled daughter, Georgia. When Georgia turned 18, her brother Jay was already married and out of the house. Her sister, Lois (later changed to Faith), still had a couple years of high school left, but it seemed like an opportune time for a change, and the idea for opening a care facility for Georgia, and others like her, took shape.

"We decided to go ahead with it, and it worked out OK," Jewell Trumbo said.

Their family then began to grow. Barbara Kutteroff, 57, was the first.

She joined them when she was 10 years old.

"Georgia and Barbara have been roommates for 48 years," he said.

Jewell Trumbo said the move to Canyon Country was his wife's idea. "We came out here to visit Placerita Park, and Hilda thought it was so wonderful, she talked me into moving," he said.

For a number of years, Jewell Trumbo commuted from Canyon Country to his job at the L.A. Airport. But he took an "early retirement" 25 years ago.

Jay and Carol Trumbo took over the operation of the home in 1981, when the elder Trumbos felt they could no longer manage it. They had been living in Arizona, where Jay Trumbo worked as a truck driver. At the time, their oldest daughter had graduated from high school, and Carol Trumbo had spent a summer managing the Welcome Home "to see if she could handle it." They felt it was the right choice, and the couple and their two younger children (now grown) made the move.

The fit was perfect because Jay Trumbo took over Trumbo's Transportation, conveying the ladies of the Trumbo Home and other handicapped children,to their workshops and activities around the SCV.

He said this was first in "checkered" limousines and later in buses.

Family

Over the years, Trumbo's Welcome Home has sheltered as many as 10 women (and one man) at a time, and only a couple of the faces have changed. Carol Trumbo noted that one of their family members passed away and two moved on when complications of Alzheimer's disease required more care than could be provided at the home.

Currently, in addition to Jewell, Jay, Carol and Georgia Trumbo (now
67), and Barbara Kutteroff, the family includes: Pepper Ritz, 62; Ruth Forehand, 58; DeDe Perez, 60, who has been with them since the 1960s; Joan Schue, 61, who has been with them 20 years; and Linda Ittner, 63, who joined them in 1994 but has known them since 1966.

And the "family" even goes beyond those who live in the home. The ladies' biological family members are encouraged to visit and vice-versa. For example, Alan Landros, who is Ittner's third cousin, has gotten to know everyone so well he helps tell their stories. One of those was about how Jay Trumbo turned the swimming pool into a fishing hole, full of catfish, for a time. Another, told by Carol Trumbo, was about the home's evacuation during last October's brush fires.

The typical schedule has the ladies attending workshops at Pleasantview Industries in Saugus on weekdays.

"They leave at 7 a.m., and they get back at 4:30," Carol Trumbo said.

There is bowling every Thursday and church on Sundays. The ladies used to attend Placerita Baptist Church, where Marjorie Hotchkiss was their Sunday school teacher well into her 90s. Now teachers from the church come out to the Welcome Home.

Landros noted that for many years the ladies would attend dances in Burbank.

And there are also lots of trips. Just this past week they visited Disneyland, and other trips have taken them as far as Hawaii.

In the home, things were run just like any family, except that everything was multiplied by the number of family members. Meals were a group production, and Carol Trumbo said that Christmas was "enormous."

She noted that the community was always very good to them. "The Elks Club was so good to us. They were always here, and we were invited to their functions."

But, all wonderful things must come to an end.

New beginnings

Though it wasn't an easy decision, Jay and Carol Trumbo have reached their own "retirement" point and feel they have to give the Welcome Home up. Jewell and Georgia Trumbo will accompany them to Montaque about five miles from Mt. Shasta, where they have a couple of manufactured homes on expansive acreage. But The Trumbos will most certainly stay in touch with their other "daughters" by phone and letter.

These other six ladies will go to two different locations. Four of them, Kutteroff, Ritz, Schue and Perez, will move to a new family-style home in Palmdale that opens April 15. They have visited it and are looking forward to living there.

"I like it fine," Kutteroff said.

"There's a pool there," Ritz said.

"I like it," Schue said, but she added that the move was "going to be hard."

Perez felt the Palmdale home was "nice to be in."

On April 1, Forehand and Ittner will move to the LARC Ranch off Bouquet Canyon Road, where they have friends from their workshops at Pleasantview.

"I'm going to miss my bed here, and everybody else. I'm glad to go with Linda," Forehand said.

Ittner said that though she was "not ready to move yet," she felt seeing her friends at LARC would be good.

Their caregivers are both happy and sad about the move as well, but understand the big picture.

Jewell Trumbo summed up the experience with the Welcome Home: "It did the service that we thought we could contribute. We just believed we needed to help somebody."

Jay Trumbo felt likewise: "I think we did a good thing, but at this point we have to let it go. We're unable to keep up with the needs of our clients."

Carol Trumbo was a bit more emotional, sometimes breaking into tears as she talked about her family at the Welcome Home. "It certainly fulfilled my need as a nurturer. This is where I was supposed to be.

It was our calling, what we were supposed to do. I'm very sad to have to leave because this is our family. But where the girls are going - they're all so happy - it makes me very happy, but very sad, too."

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