U.S. Army veteran Larry Modic and his friends spent nearly five hours in blowing snow and 15-degree temperatures Saturday removing belongings from his Manchester Road home, which the city of Akron has condemned.
Modic, 57, purchased the home in May for $10,000 with hopes of renovating it, unaware that the building had numerous code violations and was scheduled to be razed by the city.
The city plans to remove asbestos from the house Monday and demolish it Tuesday along with a next-door house, which is also condemned.
The city law department has filed a complaint against the home’s former owner for selling the house to Modic without telling him of the violations.
Four police officers in four cruisers pulled up to the house at 10:45 a.m., along with two city officials. Modic was already there waiting. He was given permission to enter the home and two hours — from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. — to retrieve his things.
The 22-year U.S. Army veteran was visibly shaken when he removed the screws to the plywood back door to enter his home for one last time.
Floors were wet and slippery and water dripped from the ceilings where pipes had burst, causing the leakage.
“You flooded my house,” Modic yelled. “It’s bad enough you’re kicking me out, but I have to get my stuff out in these flooded conditions.”
The order specified that no weapons could be brought to the premises. Modic told an officer there was still a small gun in the house and asked if he could retrieve it. He found and handed to the officer an American-made “Saturday night special,” which Modic described as small but effective.
He read a sign that he posted on the front and back doors before they were boarded up: “This property belongs to a military retiree, nothing inside is worth dying for.” Beneath the words was the outline of a body with multiple holes as seen at a gun-target practice range.
“Yeah, that’s kind of where it all started,” he said.
Modic had threatened violence during his ordeal with the city about code violations.
Modic, who has an apartment in Lakewood, was attempting to establish residency in Akron. He spent weekends in his home, trying to fix it up. Jerry Czarnecki of Cleveland came to help him move out.
“He’s my friend,” said Czarnecki, a former HUD contractor. “He doesn’t deserve this. He was hoping to make a fresh start and try to bring his grandkids here to go to school. We could have done wonders to this house.”
He was the first one there to help his friend.
“Do you want this dresser, Larry?” Czarnecki asked.
“Just leave it,” Modic said. “They gave me two hours; that doesn’t give me time to take too much.”
Bookcases, suitcases, a saw table, toolboxes, ladders, barbells, a cedar chest, new light fixtures, several model boats, cots, tables, chairs, bookcases, portable chairs, paint cans, clocks, radios, a coffee pot and a George Foreman grill were carried out the door and put into two pickup trucks parked in the driveway.
Several people drove by, beeping their horns in support of Modic, while rubberneckers curious about the police presence slowed traffic.
At 12:15, there was still an untouched room filled with computers, albums, stereo equipment, printers, scanners and boxes of albums ranging from the blues to opera, B.B. King to Luciano Pavarotti.
State Rep Zack Milkovich, D-Akron, and former City Councilman Ernie Tarle lent a hand and brought their pickup trucks. They stayed from the start until the packing finished at 3:40 p.m. Milkovich let Modic use his garage in Barberton to store his belongings.
Attorney Warner Mendenhall also showed up to make sure things were being handled smoothly. He represented Modic in his court hearing and offered to handle the case for free.
“This house could have been saved,” Mendenhall said. “I have seen worse houses spared. Look at these hardwood floors, leaded glass windows and crown molding. I can see the charm. You just have to let it be revealed. It could have been beautiful.”
Modic removed screws from a side door and used his shoulder to break the door open so he could remove items from the basement.
As Modic’s two-hour window grew smaller, two more men came with a truck to unhook and carry out the water tank and new furnace.
“Where is the compassion,” one of the volunteers said. “I’m from Idaho and this never would have happened in my hometown. People try to help one another.”
Susan Lindsley of Springfield Township and her 16-year-old son, Joshua Novisky, showed up to see what they could do. She made a phone call, and two more people showed up to help.
At 12:30 p.m., Akron police Chief James Nice arrived to say the city had banned media from being inside the property. Police asked the Beacon Journal reporter and a television news crew to step outside.
As his deadline neared and trucks left to empty their goods, Modic was told he could place the remaining items on the porch until the trucks returned. He still hadn’t gotten to the garage for bigger items, including a lawn mower, hot tub and new cabinets.
Police reminded the crew that they had orders to shut everything down at 1 p.m.
It was the first time Mendenhall heard there was a specific time limit to remove the items. He lost his temper.
“No, no, no, we are not on a clock. That is not the deal,” he shouted to police and city officials. “The deal was made in court to give him access to his home. I told the court he might need two hours, but that didn’t mean exactly two hours and shut it down. This isn’t a military operation. We hustled to get a place to store his things and get people over here. This kind of behavior is appalling.”
Mendenhall insisted that someone from the law department be called to “make things right.”
Service Director John Valle said it was in the hands of police since they were handling the security of the property.
The police chief went to his car, made a call, then came back to say he was not opposed to giving Modic more time.
Modic had just sat down on the porch to rest, holding his back. At the chief’s announcement, Modic walked down the steps to shake the chief’s hand.
“I see that a lot more people are here to help and you have almost everything out,” Nice said. “That’s fine. We’re not looking for trouble. We are trying to work with you.”
“Thank you, chief,” Modic said. “They underestimated how much stuff I had.”
Police made a final check of the house and secured it. Valle and Eaton reboarded the doors at 1:35.
Modic asked for his gun back on the spot, but Sgt. Michael Lugenbal said the gun would be returned later, along with the other five or six guns earlier retrieved from the house.
It took 11 truckloads to remove everything. Modic left a couple of chairs on the porch and several items in the garage. The last items retrieved from the house were photos of his granddaughters and homemade Christmas cards from his family.
“These are my greatest treasure,” said Modic, who has three children and eight grandchildren.
When the last three pickup trucks were filled, Modic posted his flag on the porch and said he will retrieve it Tuesday morning when the demolition crew arrives.
In better spirits after the moving task was over, Modic started to sing.
“I had high hopes.”
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.