Mahoneys make 1954 Worthington home their own
WORTHINGTON — Count on it: If Jim and Beth Mahoney ever cross the finish line on home improvement projects, they won’t celebrate with popcorn.
“We’ve lived in the popcorn ceiling world and scraped more than enough ceilings,” said Beth.
“We’re never going to touch another one.”
But as avowed “project people,” there’s a 100% chance the creatively confident couple will tackle another home improvement task or two before they settle in to simply watch the sun set over Lake Okabena, which is directly across the street from their Lake Avenue home.
“The sunsets are awesome, every night,” attested Beth.
The Mahoneys first moved to Worthington from their hometown of Morris in 2008. In the three-plus years they spent here then, they renovated the Dugdale Avenue house they had purchased, bringing it up to date and, yes, scraping away all evidence of popcorn finish from the ceilings.
“We’ve upgraded and updated every house we’ve lived in,” said Beth. “And when you’re young and don’t have a lot of money, it makes sense that you’ll do most of it yourselves.”
Jim was raised on a farm outside of Morris as one of seven siblings. His upbringing naturally provided plenty of hands-on educational opportunities to master skills that are useful in the remodeling game.
“My four brothers and dad were handy, and one of my brothers was an electrician,” said Jim.
“There were always projects to do on the farm — grain bins, or making a new closet for mom’s bedroom — and we pitched in and worked together.”
But job opportunities for the couple, who have two adult children and five grandchildren, led them to relocate to Prior Lake in 2012.
“We bought a house there that had been foreclosed on and sat empty for seven years,” said Beth.
“It needed a lot of TLC — and there was a mama skunk and her babies that took up residence under the front step.”
Although ridding the house of the skunk family was an adventure in itself, the Mahoneys gradually made headway in creating a comfortable new living environment for themselves there.
Still, with their son Patrick and his wife Jenalee in Worthington (their daughter Megan and her husband Nate live in Morris with grandchildren Flynn and Claire), the Mahoneys often were back in the area they had previously grown to love.
While visiting their family during the 2018 Worthington Windsurfing Regatta, a friend told Beth that her former job with Nobles County Community Services was open.
“That was an interesting development, but I didn’t consider it very seriously right away,” said Beth.
A few days later, however, their daughter-in-law Jenalee called to say the house next door to them on Lake Avenue was for sale.
“I like to complain that ‘God never talks to me,’” joked Beth, “but right then I felt He was slapping me across the head.
“It was definitely some sort of sign that we were supposed to come back.”
Beth applied for and was rehired by Nobles County Community Services, and Jim took a position with Fulda Area Credit Union.
While the 1954 rambler they purchased was in excellent shape, had been well cared-for by its previous two owners and, along with its premium lake view, had “lots of positives,” the Mahoneys felt compelled to make it their own.
The enterprising couple first repainted and refinished the upstairs (which, with two bedrooms and a full bathroom, makes the perfect retreat when their out-of-town daughter and her family visit) before advancing to the main floor.
Stripping it down to the studs, the Mahoneys engaged local contractors (including Chad Jeffers Construction, cabinet maker Isaac Joens of Wilmont, BTU Heating and Cooling, tile/flooring specialist Bruce Stugelmeyer and electrician John Nordell), plus construction material supplier Lampert Lumber, to supplement their do-it-yourself capabilities in bringing their new vision of the home to life.
“Essentially, we created a master bedroom/bath/closet suite on the first floor so that as we age, we can continue living here easily,” said Beth.
Added Jim, “Having everything on one level, and making it easy to enjoy our lake view, were important to us.”
Continued Beth, “And we reconfigured the kitchen to make it work better for us.”
That meant conferring with Joens to design a built-in buffet space that allows for entertaining options, and installing a chef-approved gas range.
“I love cooking with gas, although figuring out a way to get a good vent in was one of our biggest challenges,” said Beth.
“But I kept telling them, ‘I’ve got to have a hood.’”
Nearly all of the fixtures and features were purchased locally, including flooring (they chose engineered hardwood for the kitchen/dining area) and tile from Carpet Plus, appliances from Karl’s and paint (Soft Pelican is the preferred tone throughout the main floor) from Schwalbach Ace Hardware.
In addition, a small den toward the back of the house with a prized wood-burning fireplace (“Jim would burn a fire in it every night if I let him,” laughed Beth) is now bedecked with a new mantel (hand-crafted by Jim), a light-gray tile hearth laid cooperatively by Beth and Jim, and a white-paint refresh of the former red brick fireplace surround.
“We watch a lot of HGTV shows, but mostly I buy and go with what I like,” said Beth. She credits her mother, Jeanne, who died at the end of March, with encouraging that attitude.
“She always did that, and refinished every piece of furniture in our house, and it always looked beautiful,” Beth noted.
Home improvements aside, the most fortuitous aspect of the Mahoneys’ August 2018 relocation to Worthington was the ability for them to be close to their son Patrick and his family, and lend their ready support, as they together experienced a year brimming with both love and loss.
The baby girl, Genevieve, who daughter-in-law Jenalee was expecting at the time the Mahoneys returned to town, was born in October 2018 and unfortunately died a short eight months later due to complications from RSV.
“This is exactly where we are supposed to be,” said Beth. “We thank Genevieve every day for bringing us back to Worthington, and I know God will never have to speak as loud again for me to listen to Him.”
While the Mahoneys are now enjoying the changes they’ve already made in their new home, they particularly relish time spent with neighboring grandchildren Natzali, Giani and Stella — and when daughter Megan brings her family for visits, hearts and home are even fuller.
But don’t get the idea these “project people” are done quite yet.
“We’re moving outside,” said Beth, with Jim mentioning patio improvements, a deck, paint and a list of other ideas they plan to implement.
“When we were first married, we watched ‘This Old House’ with Bob Vila,” warned Jim jokingly.
Added Beth, “Four houses later, we’re here to stay.”