RICHMOND, Va. -- When a young girl named Dorothy declared "there is no place like home." Clearly, she was taking a cue from Jimmy Boehling.
“This is my spot right here. I’m very content right here.”
Jimmy keeps an eye on his crossword and beloved neighborhood from his favorite perch on Hanover Avenue. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year.
“No plans to leave anytime soon. Don’t plan to leave at all if I can help it,” said Jimmy.
Seasons may change, and neighbors move on.
“I like it very much. I guess I like to see the people come and go,” said Jimmy.
“I think there was only one house here when I came here.”
This 93-year-old remains unflinching. Jimmy has called the Museum District home since, well, before the museums arrived.
“I guess I’m just a fixture. I’ve been around so long,” he added.
Jimmy’s parents bought the stately home when he was 10 months old in 1926. And he hasn’t left. Calling the same address home for 92 years. Yes. Jimmy moved in before the Great Depression and when Babe Ruth was still-hitting homeruns for the Yankees. Television had not been invented.
“Yes. This was the West End. We called it the West End,” said Jimmy.
Life wasn’t always so quiet in the Boehling household. Jimmy shared the five-bedroom home with a dozen siblings.
“Anne, Edith, Frank, Jimmy, Jean, Dan, Ellen, Thomas, Nick, Jacquelyn, Regis, Joyce and Kenneth,” said Jimmy.
A small army under one roof.
Neighbor Bosha Nelson calls Jimmy a Richmond institution.
“Oh, he is like clockwork. He has his routine. I love to hear the old stories. I really do,” said Bosha. “It was lovely to talk to him about what this place was like 20 years ago. 40 years ago. 80 years ago. At one point he told me there were 51 children in this little block area.”
The former accountant for Reynolds literally watched the neighborhood grow up around him.
“The women’s home, The Historical Society and the Museum of Fine Arts were all built after I came here,” said Jimmy.
He saw St. Benedicts Church rise on his former sandlot. Brick by brick.
“I vaguely remember it being built. My father would take me here to see the work being done,” said Jimmy. “I remember the work going on in that church. That is my earliest memory. That was a field and we played ball over there every evening after supper.”
Jimmy even remembers delivering newspapers to the aging Civil War veterans who lived nearby.
The only significant time Jimmy spent away from Hanover Avenue was when he served as a navigator on a B-17 during WWII. On April 21st, 1945, Jimmy’s plane was flying over Germany. Blinding clouds caused the pilot to lose his control.
“I tried to alert the crew that we were in trouble. but they didn’t pay attention,” said Jimmy.
Jimmy was the only one who parachuted to safety.
“We fell off into a left spin. I just knew this was the end of it,” said Jimmy. “They’re all dead.”
Eight fellow crewmembers were on board when the plane crashed. It was Jimmy’s first and only mission.
“I’ve lived on 75 years of borrowed time,” said Jimmy.
The close call five miles in the sky still haunts.
“I don’t know why they had to go and I was left here,” said Jimmy.
His brush with death forced Jimmy to appreciate the simpler things in life. Like reading the newspaper on his front porch. Passing the time. Lots of time.
The curious who stop by can’t quite comprehend that someone could live in the same location. For nearly a century.
“They are usually a little bit surprised. Quite surprised,” said Jimmy.
The lifelong bachelor says pulling up the stakes was always out of the question.
“Oh, no. Never did. Never wanted to move. I would feel out of place anywhere else,” said Jimmy.
Niece, Marggie Boehling., says it comforts her knowing the home with deep roots remains in the family.
“We’re talking about my uncle Jimmy. Oh, he is pretty consistent,” said Marggie. “Oh, no. When he says he is going to stay here. He is going to stay here.”
In the Wizard of Oz Dorothy and Toto eventually found happiness. Jimmy Boehling never had to look. He’s always has known the yellow brick road always lead right to his doorstep.
“A lot of good memories. A lot of good memories,” said Jimmy. “Home sweet home. Yes, indeed. I love it here.”
If you know of someone with an interesting story to tell, email Greg McQuade.