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Charlie Hall (not shown), Kim Oxford-Hall, Annette Oxford and Mary Pillow sit in her cheerful breakfast nook, looking over family photos for her 100th birthday party. Her friends have also collected documents about what they say was an attempt by a caretaker to have her declared incompetent and to take control of her assets.
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Mary Pillow at 99 years and 11 months in February 2011. She's still happy and going strong today.
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Mary Pillow grew up in a big family in New Mexico. She married a real-life cowboy from a local ranch. They came to California during WWII to work in the aerospace industry, and then retired to Pine Mountain in the 1970s. She loved to play golf and bridge.
By Patric Hedlund and Gary Meyer
Mary Pillow is surrounded by loving neighbors. In May she rode in a convertible, waving to her Pine Mountain community as Grand Marshal for the Lilac Festival parade.
A month earlier the Condor Room of the Pine Mountain clubhouse had been turned into a birthday party for Pillow as she celebrated her 100th year. About sixty friends came to the luncheon coordinated by Michelle Neville-Throckmorton, Toby Brault, Charlie and Kim Hall and a committee of several other friends. Pillow has a sunny disposition, a good sense of humor and laughs easily.
In an interview at the end of February we learned that Mary Pillow has lived in Pine Mountain since shortly after it was created. She and her husband had come to California, worked in the aerospace industry and then retired to Pine Mountain to enjoy golf and bridge games in the mountains she loves.
Her husband died 30 years ago. Her daughter passed about six years ago. But her neighbors, the Halls, said in the interview in which Mary participated, that they watched over her closely, helping to keep the house and yard in order and cooking her breakfast each day. She lives in her own home. Last spring they hired a caretaker to sleep at the house so she would be secure in the night.
That is when a darker time began, during which they allege Pillow was suddenly isolated from the friends who had cared for her for years. They allege there was an attempt by the caretaker to have Pillow diagnosed as incompetent so that she would lose control of her own assets and finances. The friends also allege they were told they could not visit her anymore.
The Halls and Michelle Neville Throckmorton have compiled files showing what they say is a progressive intrusion into the elder’s financial affairs.
The Mountain Enterprise has acquired documents that show a trust set up with Renee Gettler as trustee and a will which conveys all residual assets of Pillow’s estate to Gettler. Other documents indicate Mary Pillow was taken to Truxtun Psychiatric Medical Group by the caretaker, seeking to question her mental competence. This was not successful.
On May 13, 2011 charges were filed against Renee Gettler in California Superior Court alleging that Gettler (who has also used the name Renee Laudenberg) unlawfully took “money, labor or property belonging to Mary Pillow in an amount not exceeding $400” during 2010. Placing a $400 limit on the charge keeps it a misdemeanor, rather than a felony, according to authorities.
Court records dated February 9, 2011 state: “On September 24, 2010 Janice Keenberg [who was a senior services counselor at the Mountain Communities Family Resource Center] reported Renee Gettler was the caregiver for Mary Pillow, a 99-year-old female, from April 11, 2010 until September 5, 2010.
“During this time," Keenberg alleged, "Gettler stole over $12,000 in funds and property belonging to Pillow. During an interview with Gettler on February 9, 2011, Gettler admitted to purchasing about $600 in clothing for herself and spending about $600 for repairs to her vehicle. The purchases were made with Pillow’s money.
“Gettler also admitted to taking some of Pillow’s property with an estimated value of $1,745. Pillow’s total loss is estimated at $2,945," according to the court filing.
Gettler was arraigned on July 1 for misdemeanor charges under Penal Code section 368(e), Theft from an Elder, according to court records. She is scheduled for a pretrial conference in the court’s South Division in Taft at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 7.
Charlie Hall reports that when he complained about the reduction of the charge to a misdemeanor, a deputy district attorney told him the state has little funding for jail facilities, suggesting that charges are frequently being lowered in the face of overcrowding at jails.
Renee Laudenberg a.k.a. Gettler has visited the office of The Mountain Enterprise, suggesting she plans legal action against the newspaper for our publication of Mary Pillow’s story based on public records.
Neighbors have expressed concern that others need to know how an elder can be put at risk.
Happy 100th Birthday Mary!
(This story was reported in March 2011)
By Patric Hedlund
It is a good thing that Mary Pillow of Pine Mountain enjoys ice cream and cake. Rumor has it there was plenty of both when her friends held a grand 100th birthday party for her on March. 30 2011. Mary sparkles when she is surrounded by friends, and that means she sparkles frequently.
Toby Brault, Michelle Neville-Throckmorton , Charlie Hall, Kim Oxford- Hall and Annette Oxford have been enjoying planning, and sharing stories as they write invitations for the big day.
Mary married Bob Pillow when she was just a wisp of about 20. He was a true cowboy in New Mexico, and she was his partner. They came to California to work in the Lockheed factory in World War II.
They came to Pine Mountain in 1973. She was great at golf. Their daughter Carla lived here too. Both Bob and Carla are gone now, but people enjoy Mary’s sense of humor and she has frequent visitors.
Her secret to longevity appears to be laughter…and maybe that ice cream.
Mary loves Bill Clinton and gets impatient with mention of George Bush, her neighbor Charlie Hall reports, hinting with a laugh and a wink that, just maybe, Mary Pillow’s fiery politics may be a clue to a long and happy life.
This is part of the July 29, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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