Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

February 24, 2005
Contractor takes on social justice with hammer, grit

Gilbert Majcher (better known as Gill) has a mission; and, despite being 69 years old, it is a mission he is determined to see through. Majcher is resolute in bringing accessible quality housing to those who are confined to wheelchairs. Coming from a divorced family, back when people didn’t often get divorced, Majcher said he learned about honesty and integrity early on from his grandmother.

“I give all the credit of my upbringing and my path in life to my Grandma Szeliga,” said Majcher. “She somehow took the place of my mother when she (Majcher’s mother) went out to work.”

Majcher remembers a particular point of wisdom he gained from his grandmother, when he learned the importance of not trying to get something for nothing. Back in a time when Wheaties cereal used to have sports cards in the box, he and his friend Eddie decided to do a little “shopping.”

“Eddie and I decided to go in and get a box of Wheaties and decided while we were at it, to get a couple of bottles of pop,” said Majcher. The two took the items from the store without paying for them and went around the backside of the building to a field. “We took the pictures out of the Wheaties box, drank the pop and decided there was a nickel refund on the pop bottles.”

Deciding to cash in the nickel refund, the two boldly re-entered the store.

“Then one hand came down on each of our shoulders,” said Majcher. “He (Ray, the storeowner) lifted us both up on our toes and said, ‘Gill, Ed, I watched you take the Wheaties and the pop, I was just going to tell your grandmother about it, but this is too much.’ He walked us home on our tiptoes and told my grandmother.”

Little Gill got quite the walloping that day, but was surprised to turn around afterwards and see his grandmother in tears. “I’m thinking why is she crying,” said Majcher. “Then she said, ‘don’t you dirty the family name again.’”

My basic understanding of honesty came from that time,” added Majcher. That new bit of wisdom about honesty and not trying to get something for nothing is part of what has led Majcher in his project to provide quality housing to those who are handicapped.

“My dad had a stroke in 1986 and became a paraplegic,” said Majcher. “He should have been put in a home [the doctors told them]. He was 250 pounds and his wife was 110 pounds soaking wet. She wouldn’t put him in a home.”

After retiring in Arkansas, Majcher’s father and stepmother soon found the home they were living in didn’t accommodate the use of a wheelchair. “They lived in a little bungalow with two steps up to the porch. She eventually took him home and for three years cared for him until he died in 1989.”

What really surprised Majcher when visiting his father was the work that had to be done to the home to make it wheelchair accessible. “To make room for a wheelchair to enter the bathroom, they took the casing off and moved the jackstuds and didn’t replace the door. The doors in the cabinet under the sink were just taken off. Nothing was compatible for him helping himself. He had the use of his right side, but he couldn’t even get a glass of water.”

Seeing the type of destruction that was done to the house to make it work for his father and the lack of experience that seemed to be associated with making things wheelchair accessible, Majcher thought he could do a better job.

purchased a home in Tooele in 1989 to prove his point. Getting that point made, however, has taken a few more years than he expected. “As soon as I got started, I got a call for the Gulf War,” said Majcher. Retired from the Navy and Naval Reserves as a Seabee, Majcher was called back to active duty.

After serving his country, he returned home to find that all his tools had been stolen. “Long story short,” he said, “I had been burglarized while I was gone. And there went my tools and anything else that shined.”

Determined to not give up on his dream, he went to work in Southern Utah to earn enough money to replace his tools and other stolen items. Working in the Moab area until 1994, he eventually migrated back north to Stansbury to live and work as an electrician.

Having rented out the home he planned to renovate, after the renters moved out he finally got started on the project in the late 90’s.

Doing a little more research along the way, Majcher discovered that the quality of living for those who were wheelchair bound was less than desirable. Noting one house in particular where the man who had been living there passed away, he said, “It looked like someone had given him a chainsaw and an ax. The kitchen looked worse than some buildings I had blown up in construction.” He went on to say, “It was a sad thing to see and the more information I came across, the more homes I looked at, there was no difference.”

To prove it could be done a better way, Majcher went to work on the home he is now near finishing in Tooele.

“I gutted this thing from the sewer lines, all the way up to the rooftop,” said Majcher.

Majcher also put in all new Millguard windows, enlarging them to make them more accessible to open and close. All the doorways were replaced with 36” openings and doors.

The kitchen was relocated to the rear of the house to accommodate a new larger bathroom with a shower that can be entered and used by a person in a wheelchair. “The floor had to be raised throughout the whole house by 2 and a half inches,” said Majcher. This was done so the large tiled shower would have no curb and drain properly, bringing the bathroom to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifications.

The home, which now complys with ADA specs, is impressive due to the quality of workmanship and its inherent warmth.

Springfield Maple flooring was used throughout most of the house, with unpadded carpet in the bedrooms to make it easier for a wheelchair to maneuver.

The kitchen cabinets have been lowered to 34” (the standard is 36”). Majcher even went so far as to order a dishwasher from Europe to fit the lowered cabinetry.

A surprising bonus was an outdoor heating system, which runs under most of the driveway and includes walkways around the house and back porch. This system eliminates the need for the homeowner to shovel snow.

“When it’s all done, the whole property will be wheelchair accessible,” said Majcher. Once inside the home, there are also motion detectors to turn lights on as the occupant enters. The changes can be expensive in homes that need to be rennovated, but would be affordable if done in a home from the beginning.

“I wanted to prove it could be done in a standard, cookie cutter home,” added Majcher. “I will go bible, chapter and verse, the cost is minimal, the value incalculable.”

Now that he has proven it can be done, Majcher plans to take the idea to the building community.

“I plan to carry the program into the Home Builders’ Association,” he stated. “I will also go to the Real Estate Association, to try and get them to put a link in for wheelchair accessible homes.”

Right now he said he wants to help remove the stigma that is often associated with wheelchair accessible homes. “I’m going to challenge anybody that this house detracts the value of this neighborhood. That’s why I decided to do it,” said Majcher.

With his Grandma’s good name to hold up to, Majcher is determined to stand by the quality of his work.

Majcher hopes that eventually there will be more standardized housing for those who are handicapped. “In 1989 there were 40 million handicapped,” said Majcher. “There are 50 million now.” Majcher’s dream is to be the start of a change to make things easier and more comfortable for those whose mobility is limited to a wheelchair.

Despite suffering a heart condition early last year that put him out of commission until November, Majcher is up and going and his home for the handicapped is now ready to be seen. You can virtual tour it at www.tour-this-home.com.

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