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Father Dies, Mother Wheelchair-Bound, House Burns Down Without Insurance

February 2, 1986

MEADOWBROOK, Calif. (AP) _ At the age of 18, Martin Hillig has lost his father, ended his schooling so he could work to support his disabled mother, and now he’s lost his home and all the family’s belongings, with no insurance.

But the teen-ager remains undaunted and says he sure things will work out.

″I never saw him break down over his dad. I never saw him break down over the fire. But he’s an 18-year-old kid who’s had to grow up mighty quick,″ said Tom Parker, service manager at the car dealership where Hillig works in nearby Perris.

Several years ago, Hillig’s mother, Madeline, became ill with disabling blood and eye disorders.

When his father died of pneumonia at the age of 42 the day after Easter last year, he quit school for a full-time job.

″I probably could have stayed in school, but I kind of felt I should go out and work,″ he said.

Last Monday, his mother was cooking when grease spilled from a frying pan and ignited in their mobile home 65 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

″She couldn’t do anything about it, so she just got out,″ Hillig said.

The blaze gutted the front of their home and damaged part of the rear before firefighters could control it. And later, the fire re-ignited, destroying the home.

The family was left without so much as a change of clothes, and even Mrs. Hillig’s wheelchair was lost.

Hillig’s co-workers at the Rufus M. Hook Co. dealership took up a collection and raised nearly $250.

But the family’s insurance policy expired Jan. 21, a week before the fire. The insurance company had notified Mrs. Hillig in December that the policy would not be renewed, Hillig said.

″We were just going to transfer to another company. My mom called another agent, got the quote and ordered the policy. The agent told her everything was OK and that he’d send the bill to my grandparents,″ he said. ″The policy was supposed to come to my mom. She called him back three times to make sure there wouldn’t be a lapse in coverage.″

When Mrs. Hillig called Tuesday to report the fire, ″he told my mom he had heard about it and said we weren’t covered,″ the youth said. ″We never paid him anything and we didn’t sign any papers. It was all verbal.″

The Red Cross found the family temporary shelter at a local motel, where they expect to remain until at least Tuesday.

He said the family hasn’t made definite plans yet.

″I’ve got lots of friends and my brother could stay with his girlfriend,″ he said. ″My mother shouldn’t be a problem, either. I’m sure we’ll find some place for her.″

″Martin doesn’t wear his feelings on his sleeve,″ Parker said. ″... He had a lot of trouble talking about his father’s death. Then this fire thing, he just blanked it out.″

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