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A home at 100

For 100th birthday, local hopes to keep house in Canyon Country

Posted: February 24, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 24, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Geraldine Livingston, left, and her father, Harold Olov Wang, 99, look over a portfolio of Wang’s work at his home in Friendly Valley in Canyon Country on Wednesday. Livingston is helping her father sell his paintings online at

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He’s hopped freight trains, fought in World War II, wrote poetry and sold paintings for thousands of dollars.

But all Harold Olov Wang wants to do now is stay home.

In December, the Santa Clarita Valley artist turns 100 years old.

He wants to celebrate that milestone in his home.

A series of expensive health complications and a depressed economy, however, are threatening to turn him out of his house at age 99.

“I don’t want to lose contact with my home,” Wang said Wednesday from his home in the Friendly Valley senior living community off Sierra Highway.

Wang is just one of the many people locally caught in the grips of the Great Recession. Last year, almost 2,000 homeowners within city limits received default notices, the first step toward foreclosure, according to a city report.

Eclectic life
Wang was born to Scandinavian immigrants in Rhinelander, Wis., on Dec. 7, 1911.

When the Great Depression hit, he decided to discover America and began hopping on and off trains as they crisscrossed the country.

After the war, Wang married German-born citizen Gisela von Koschembahr, who served in the Women’s Army Corps of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Both began working for the U.S. government, where Wang developed a passion for writing and art. 

He also became an Abraham Lincoln buff.

In the last couple of years, however, his hectic and eclectic lifestyle has taken a turn for the worst.

Since 2009, his daughter Geraldine Livingston has been battling with a mortgage bank to keep her father in his “sanctuary,” trying unsuccessfully to obtain a lower monthly payment for him.

Health concerns
On New Year’s Day 1999, Wang’s wife died.

He started painting wild, vibrant abstract paintings.

On Jan. 8, 2006, he fell and broke his hip, requiring immediate hip-replacement surgery.

After months in the hospital, Wang returned home in April 2006.

But he didn’t come home alone.

With him was a live-in caregiver requiring a salary of $3,400 a month.

Livingston opened a home equity line of credit to pay for the caregiver costs, which she called “crippling.”

Now, she says, that money has run out.

Her father’s government pension and Social Security checks are not enough to keep him in his home, she said.

Further complications
To make matters worse, Livingston’s boss died of cancer, prompting the man’s family and trustees to sell his business after 18 years in operation.

Livingston, who opened a home equity line of credit on her own home last year, has been without a job since October.

While her boss was dying and his company was closing up shop, her father ended up back in the hospital in August, where he stayed until October.

The day he returned home — with caregiver costs now up to $3,700 — was the day after she was told she no longer had a job.

The logical solution to keep the home, Livingston said, is to sell some of her father’s 400 paintings, which fill closets and cover every wall in his home.

“If we could just get these in front of the right audience,” Livingston said. “Many of these paintings are my favorites. But we’re at the point where we have to put those feelings aside.

“It would help us out with the financial situation.”

Livingston invites everyone to view her father’s paintings online at


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