Mary Louise Flavel has been found by The Daily Astorian.
The 87-year-old, a living piece of Astoria history and subject of extensive searches by city officials, sat on her porch Tuesday at her Portland-area home, chatting with friendly neighbors and enjoying the sun.
It was just another day for Flavel, but would soon change.
“I don’t want Astoria to know where I am,” she said, polite but reserved.
On the condition her address would not be revealed, Flavel spoke sporadically over the course of nearly an hour, a casual chat in the sun. She did not answer questions; instead, she recalled old times.
“Life in Astoria was great, unless you were a Flavel,” she said, adding that her family has been unfairly characterized and mistreated for generations, sometimes because of jealousy, other times because of cruelty.
Even in school, having come from money at the time of the Great Depression, when other children were given things, the Flavel children were not because “the Flavels could afford it,” even if they didn’t have the opportunity.
“How would you like it if the roles were reversed?” she asked sincerely.
How she was tracked down
An anonymous caller Tuesday to The Daily Astorian with an unlisted and unidentified address to share led the reporters to Flavel’s front door. After a search of her county’s records of property taxes, a clerk confirmed the taxes at the address had not yet been paid for this year.
But last year, they were paid by The Flavel Trust.
Asked if she was aware the city had entered her former home at 15th Street and Franklin Avenue in Astoria, Flavel replied, “There’s certainly been enough publicity on it that anyone and everyone would know. They changed the lock on the door so I couldn’t get in a long time ago.”
Asked if she was aware the city was looking for her, she replied, “Of course. I’m not stupid,” with a graceful and calm demeanor.
She claims she has talked to the city many times in the last year, to everyone from the mayor to the police chief, something Mayor Willis Van Dusen and Police Chief Pete Curzon have denied. Van Dusen said he hasn’t spoken with her in many years; Curzon says he has never spoken to Flavel.
Flavel has been in hiding, according to city officials, since her family left town in 1993, after her brother Harry was released from Clatsop County Jail, serving 15 months for assault for a stabbing incident that occurred a decade earlier.
Ever since, the doors and windows to the Flavel family’s former residence, occupied once by Harry, Mary Louise and their mother Florence, have been boarded up. And it’s been derelict. But last year, the city of Astoria passed a derelict building ordinance, which allowed officials to issue citations to Flavel, if they could find her.
And they could not.
Last month, Astoria Municipal Court Judge Kris Kaino signed an abatement warrant, allowing the city to enter the abandoned mansion after exhausting all searches for Flavel.
What they found inside shocked everyone.
An inspection of the inside revealed thousands of pieces of newspaper and magazines dating back to 1914, old TVs, postcards and letters, the remains of what appeared to be a dog in the refrigerator and 1950s clothing. The city has boarded the house up, cleared the yard’s vegetation, and tarped the roof to prevent water from seeping in.
Now, they will file a lien.
But Flavel was the missing piece to the puzzle.
And now, she’s seemingly in place.
Flavel wouldn’t say whether she plans to regain control of her Astoria home.
“I haven’t lost it,” she said. “Do you think I have?”
She said what the city has done is “completely illegal.”
“They have no right to do anything they’re doing.”
She said the city of Astoria has great potential if residents looked at life more positively, and didn’t waste their time hounding the Flavels.
Adding one more wrinkle to the Flavel family home situation, one man, James “Jim” Neikes, owner of North Coast Truck Parts and Equipment, has a 2005 notarized sale deed presentingproof that Florence Flavel gave the property to him.
It states, “Robert Dorszynski, successor personal representative of the estate of Florence S. Flavel, Marion County Case No. 01C20961 and Oregon Court of Appals Case No. A119485, grantor, conveys to James J. Neikes, grantee, any and all interest the estate may have in all the real property situated in the city of Astoria, county of Clatsop, state of Oregon, legally described as follows and the consideration for this conveyance in terms of dollars is $500.”
It then goes on to describe three parcels of land, two commercial sites and one residental – all buildings once owned by the Flavels, including the derelict mansion at 627 15th St.
That was something Flavel was not aware of. And it caught her attention fast.
“That’s absolutely false,” she said.
A deed dated Dec. 1, 1986, signed by Florence and Mary Louise Flavel, and notarized by a Lori Davidson of Notary Public Oregon, would seemingly confirm Flavel’s claim to the home, if Florence Flavel’s estate didn’t have a deed in 2005 to begin with.
Attorney Hal Snow, speaking before Flavel was found Tuesday, called the situation complicated.
And now, Flavel says of the city’s actions, “It is my property. Their actions don’t make it theirs.”
Where she lives
Her new home tells a different story.
For all accounts and purposes, Flavel’s home is beautiful, tidy and quite charming. Built in 2007, it was bought by Flavel in early 2010, according to Zillow.com
She purchased it in March, a few months before her brother Harry died.
Pink hydrangeas bloom in the well-manicured front yard and the window from the outside looking in reveals a nearly empty front room without any furniture but a lawn chair.
Those in the subdivision who walked by and checked on Flavel were kind, keeping a watchful eye over their elderly neighbor, with many checking in on her over the course of the afternoon.
Outside of Flavel’s neighborhood, many have been inquiring about the property after The Daily Astorian article, “Flavel Family mystery unsealed” was picked up by the Associated Press and printed in Monday’s edition of The Oregonian. The story also appeared on news websites from Seattle to Bend to San Fransisco, spreading the word and raising the hype surrounding the family intrigue.
Florence’s great-niece Sheryl Sherman has inquired about the property, contacting The Daily Astorian Monday. She said she has not been in contact with Mary Louise for many years, having communicated a few years ago with her caretaker via email, but not recently. She said she has no idea if Mary Louise “is still with us,” but hoped to discuss the home with the city Monday.
City Building Inspector Jack Applegate said long-lost relatives have contacted the city, including a cousin in Eugene, as well as other people who have called in with Mary Louise Flavel “sightings.”
Those have helped to separate fact from fiction in one of Astoria’s most talked-about mysteries in recent years.
The question is, what will happen next?
This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.