CAMERON - Lois Berzman says it was a photo of a welcoming front door seen online that inspired her to leave her life in San Francisco, purchase a mansion and move across the country to Cameron.
Six years later, she has become "acclimated" to her adopted community, her historic home and "all the curves" in the road there along U.S. 250 that once made her car sick.
Berzman had looked online for a home outside of the highly expensive San Francisco area as she planned her retirement as an administrative assistant at the Bank of America Corp. in San Francisco. She was taking time off from the job to care for her ailing mother in Portland, Ore. at the time,
Photo by Joselyn King
Lois Berzman welcomes visitors to her historic home at 10 Church St. in Cameron. Berzman, a former resident of San Francisco, said she purchased the mansion after seeing a photo of the home and its front entrance on-line.
Berzman said she was struck by the home at 10 Church St. in Cameron, although all she could see in its photograph was its front door.
"I flagged many houses - in Connecticut, New Mexico - but I kept coming back to that front door," she commented. "Something just drew me to this house, and to this area.
"Fate brought me here for a reason. I just haven't figured out that reason yet."
Berzman called the real estate agent and asked her to send more photographs of the home, and a video showed her it needed only small cosmetic fixes.
There were no shots on the video, though, that gave her any clues about the community in which it was located, she continued.
Berzman decided the listed price of $135,000 for the 4,090-square-foot mansion in West Virginia was nevertheless the best deal, and she purchased the three-story home without ever having traveled to the East Coast.
"I knew I couldn't afford to stay in San Francisco without working," she said. "Even though I owned my condo, the property taxes and the condo fees alone would have taken all of my retirement check.
"And I thought even if I traveled, I would still need a home base."
Cameron has proved an affordable option for retirement, Berzman acknowledged, as she has come to make friends there and become part of the community.
The first thing she did was immerse herself in her new home's history as she examined past deeds and wills left in the home.
Built in 1886, the home at 10 Church St. was once the Parriott Hotel, according to the records. It remained in the Parriott family until December 1929, when it was purchased by Beulah Keller Cooper.
Cooper's husband, Dr. J.E. Cooper, had his offices on the first floor of the home and treated patients there, Berzman said. It was on April 14, 1934, at age 59, that Cooper was killed after his automobile was struck by a train in Cameron.
And tragedy also would strike Beulah Cooper less than four years later.
She was found shot to death in the foyer of her home at 10 Church St. on Jan. 14, 1938. Reports from the time said police believed the shooter to be Okey J. Prunty - Beulah Cooper's boarder - whose body was found in the kitchen. He was believed to have committed suicide after murdering Cooper.
Berzman pointed to a circular stain that remains on the hardwood floor in the foyer. She has never been able to remove the stain, and believes it is a remnant of evidence from the Cooper murder.
Since moving in, Berzman also has made the home her own. A parlor to the left of the entrance and foyer has been turned into her master bedroom, lessening her travels up the home's stairs. She also has turned a former broom closet off the kitchen into a walk-in and sit-down shower retreat.
Most of the home's furniture and accessories came from Berzman's former home in San Francisco. A painting in the dining room depicts the San Francisco skyline with Alcatraz prison in the distance, and Berzman recently purchased a painting of a cable car she said will soon hang beside it.
Berzman remembers the day her real estate agent picked her up in Pittsburgh after she purchased her new home and drove her to Cameron for the first time.
"I thought, 'This is Cameron?'" Berzman said. "I looked to the right, and I looked to the left, and I thought, 'This is it?"
"But I've acclimated myself... Once a week, I try to get out to some doings in Wheeling."
Berzman said she truly appreciates the local festivals and entertainment the area has to offer. She is especially a fan of the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival, the Light of the Valley luncheon and Broadway shows at the Capitol Theatre.
Most recently the San Francisco transplant - who noted she has always been a Republican - attended the Marshall County GOP dinner.
"Speaking as a former administrative assistant who used to plan these things, the dinners and festivals are very, very well done - as well as anywhere." she said.
Berzman also has made many friends in the community over the past six years. Among them is her neighbor, Pete Daughtery,who mows her lawn in the summer and keeps her sidewalks clear of snow in the winter.
She also spoke well of Cameron Mayor Julie Beresford, whom she credits with greatly improving the community during her short time in office.
"The people here have been very, very good to me," she said. "But what this town needs is a bakery. I have to go 18 miles (to Moundsville) for a doughnut."