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Curmudgeon vows to stay put

By Timothy J. Gibbons
Published by Daytona Beach News-Journal on December 11, 1999.

ORANGE CITY -- Christmas is being stolen from the Grinch.

While the Whos in Who-ville gather in song, a self-admitted crotchety old man is being forced from his mobile home park.

Park residents say he generates anything but peace on earth, good will toward men.

The eviction notice 82-year-old Tony Kann received this week states he "continually violates the peaceful enjoyment of the mobile home park by its residents."

The week before Christmas, Kann has been ordered to pack up his decrepit trailer and haul it away from the Orange City Mobile Home Park. But he says he's not going.

"I have absolutely no intention of getting out," he said. "They'll have to call the sheriff to put me out."

Kann insists he'll celebrate the holidays at home, but park manager Nancy Johnston says he won't.

"He has to leave," she said. "I would like Mr. Kann to pack his things up and not make me go any further."

His eviction raises two questions: Is it right to kick out an old man no matter how cranky a week before Christmas? On the other hand, how much should a neighborhood put up with before getting rid of a troublemaker?

Make no mistake: Kann is a troublemaker.

"People might find me a little difficult," he said with obvious relish, showing off an old license plate proclaiming "1 SOB."

"I've always been individualistic. I'm well aware that I'm a lot different than most people," he said.

"I do a lot of things just to be different from other people."

Sometimes this is a good thing. When he was 59, for example, Kann returned to college to earn a third bachelor's degree. But recently, park residents say, he's gone overboard.

"I try to just stay away from him," said Ralph Adams, whom Kann often berates. "If he keeps going on like he does, there will be a `for sale' sign on my trailer."

Another resident said she's selling her trailer because of Kann.

"He tries to mind everybody's business," the woman wrote to the manager. "And he's called my husband every name in the book."

Kann moved to the park in 1996 after pleading no contest to a battery charge. Although only given probation, he spent 131 days in jail before the trial because, he said, he "smarted off to the judge."

The charge, he said, stemmed from an attack by his wife, who divorced him and stripped the house while he was in jail.

So he moved into the mobile home park, paying $10,000 for the 30-year-old trailer he calls home.

"I gave him a break when he got out of jail," Johnston said. "Now I regret it."

As do the neighbors. To their consternation, the decorated World War II veteran admits to being open with his opinions, ridiculing one man who didn't serve in the military, getting involved in other residents' family conflicts and calling the manager an "old bat."

This is why Johnston said she made the hard decision to evict him. "It hurts me to do so, but I have to bring it to closure."

Legally, there's no problem with the park evicting the curmudgeon. The only thing Kann is entitled to for his $210 rent payment is one month's use of the lot.

"If the landlord wants him out and gives 15 days' notice, that's it," said Suzanne Ronneau, head of the Daytona Beach-based Volunteer Lawyers Project.

"The tenant doesn't have any rights if the landlord wants him out," she said. "If the landlord doesn't want you there anymore, there doesn't have to be a reason."

Florida is known as a pro-tenant state, but the law gives most of the cards to landowners, said attorney Steven Gosney.

Mobile home evictions have the strictest guidelines because "you have two property interests clashing," Gosney said. "Even though it's a mobile home, it's a semi-permanent structure."

Moving a mobile home costs several thousand dollars. Kann said his old home would probably fall apart if he tried to move it.

"Anyway, I don't even know where the wheels are," he said.

Not that he's looking. Whatever happens, Kann said, he'll be celebrating Christmas sitting on the same beat-up couch he's occupied in years past.

"You don't think I'll actually be leaving on the 20th," he said, incredulous when asked about his holiday plans. "I'll be sitting here watching it on television.

"What judge is going to kick me out before Christmas?"



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This is a showcase of the work done by Timothy J. Gibbons during a journalism career now stretching back more than a decade.

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