Out with the old

he 80-somethings at retirement home Desert Crest face eviction. But that's just business, says the home's owner--which happens to be an agency of the Roman Catholic church.

FSAL attorney Mike King pauses for a long minute when asked about such a scenario. Then he says that the Foundation for Senior Living, FSL, "has never approached us about that."

King didn't explain how he expected Guy Mikkelsen, executive director of FSL, to "approach" Guy Mikkelsen, president of FSAL, to discuss such an option.

Mikkelsen himself, after granting an initial telephone interview, did not respond to repeated calls.

Marcia Busching, attorney for Desert Crest residents, thinks she knows what Mikkelsen would say to such a plan.

"I agree that the best thing would be to do a cram-down of some sort where Desert Crest would retain the property. My sense is that [Mikkelsen and FSAL] feel they've explored that to the nth degree and have no other choices. I think they saw JPI as their best alternative," she says.

Busching doesn't understand FSAL's reasoning in the purchase agreement with JPI. "They certainly come across as though they're trying to do the best for the residents, especially with this huge debt load. But it looks like there have been other options which have not been pursued."

She says with increased media and public scrutiny, however, FSAL might feel pressure either to find another buyer who will run Desert Crest or keep it itself.

Some people believe much of that pressure should be applied to the diocese and Bishop Thomas O'Brien, who has remained silent about the matter.

The bishop did not respond to an interview request.
State Senator Chris Cummiskey, who lives near Desert Crest and has joined his neighbors in opposition to its razing, has also been unable to get Bishop O'Brien on the phone.

"The diocese is doing its best to pretend that this is not a problem for them. . . . But I think the developers are feeling the heat," Cummiskey says.

FSAL seems to believe, however, that Desert Crest is worth more dead than alive. And until a guardian angel (or public outcry) convinces this corporate George Bailey that it has a moral obligation to survive despite substantial challenges, the foundation will apparently wish Desert Crest had never been born.

Charlotte Knaus spent the Depression selling lipstick and wishing she were onstage.

She worked at Wanamaker's department store in Manhattan in the theater district, which kept her close to her passion. On weekends, after turning in all but $2 of the $15 she made each week to her father, Knaus would perform in radio plays and hone her acting skills.

She fell in love with another Wanamaker's clerk who also lived for the theater and had trained as an actor. They married in 1937 and had two children.

Today, Knaus is 88, and she lives alone in Desert Crest. "I have two retired children. I can't understand where the time went," she says, and it's not hard to agree with her--Knaus is arguably the youngest 88-year-old in Phoenix.

Today, she's taking part in a board meeting of the Desert Crest residents' club held in the Bishop Rausch Fellowship Hall.

The residents have a grim task: They need to decide what will be done with various club properties and bank accounts if Knaus and McCullough and the rest are kicked out of Desert Crest.

They've managed to amass a sizable sum through the years. About $21,000 is spread among several bank accounts. But with the fight of their life on their hands, the venerable men and women think not of themselves but others. They discuss giving the money to charity.

Then, from 97-year-old Daviejean Six, Lyle's mother, there's another suggestion. Margaret Bowman asks the softspoken nonagenarian to repeat her proposal.

"Daviejean suggests we have a big party!"
"With $21,000?"
"Whoa!"

"Well," Bowman says, laughing, "Daviejean wants to be part of something, and she's 97. She can't wait much longer."

Contact Tony Ortega at his online address: tortega@newtimes.com

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