GEORGE AND CLARA Grunenfelder have lived in Arlington on and off for 30 years. They raised three daughters and built a home here, and they can remember back when no one locked their doors.
But times were changing. They got a safe. They installed heavy dead bolt locks.
It wasn't enough.
On Monday, Nov. 21, the Grunenfelders returned from a weekend trip to find their house had been burglarized. Gone are the rings, the gold and diamond watches, their silver, the sentimental and precious things they have collected over a lifetime, things they had willed their children to remember them by.
"Some of those things are dumb that they took," says Clara Grunenfelder, 70. "They're not worth a damn thing to anyone but me." Other things, such as the silver service for 12, had more value. The Grunenfelders have insurance, and she has started the agravating, time-consuming process of visting the required three jewelers to get estimates on how much it will cost to replace what was stolen. She is finding that the diamond watch that cost $295 in 1958 costs $1,200 now, "but," she says, "why bother getting anything if you know it's not sucure?"
Clara Grunenfelder's house was always immaculate, everything always in its place. She and her husband had nice things and she took good care of them. Her home has always been a point of pride with her. Now, she feels it has been invaded, abused. "My home was treated just like a rapist would treat a female . . . These things did not belong to him. They were taken from their surroundings and abused. I'm having a hard time feeling like I'm alone, that there isn't another presence (here).
"I'm not afraid of anyone coming in, but their presence is felt whenever I look aroundand see the things that aren't there. I've never felt so devastated. My house is not someplace I can go for security anymore.
"When I first came into my house, I didn't see what was wrong, but I knew something was wrong. I couldn't believe it . . . . When I said we've been robbed, George thought they couldn't have gotten very much because we have the safe. You don't get into them easily. But they used an iron bar, a pick and hammer. It must have taken them 20 minutes. Then they just proceeded to unload everything . . . . Inside they worked with gloves. There are no prints. I have some oriental rugs they didn't touch, some paintings they didn't touch.. They were obviously after coins, silver, and gold jewelry."
Clara Grunenfelder thinks a woman was involved. "Some things were done like a woman would do them." She said the silver candlesticks, for example, were kept in a cabinet behind some smaller curios. It was a tight fit. Instead of shoving the smaller objects aside and reaching in for the candleholders, the burglar carefully picked the smaller objects out, took the candleholders, and replaced the other objects precisely where they belong.
"There had to be a woman involved," says Clara Grunenfelder.
They emptied the jewelry out of the safe and took the drawers from the chests in the bedrooms and apparently brought them down into the dining room where they searched through them for valuables. "She said, "The police surmised that with the cathedral ceiling and the windows they could work in the dining room with enough light at dusk so they would not have to turn on the lights."
They took the silver tea set that had been willed to her middle daughter, "because of the three girls she had an affinity for it." And they took pieces of jewelry that had memories of particularly sentimental moments, shared among Clara Grunenfelder and two of her daughters. "The mornings they got married, I took out my jewelry and said let's look at it, and select what you want now." And together, they had tried on the rings.
" the only thing good that's come of this is the family has rallied around," she says. "They're consoling each other and saying don't worry about the things. You and Daddy are safe and that's what's important.
"They did another nasty thing. I put what I considered my best jewerly in the safe. I had a diamond watch and a gold watch. And I had an Agnew watch upstairs. They arranged the Agnew watch on a piece of cotton and set it in a box and put it back in the drawer as if to say, you don't deserve what you have.
"Maybe I have more than most. Maybe I don't deserve what I have, but nobody gave it to me. I really worked for it. I'm 70 and at the age of 70 shouldn't you be able to sit back and enjoy what you've got aquired?
"They took the things of my whole life. You know how you can look at a ring and start to laugh? Well, they took my cheese ring. Years ago I wanted a ring. I really wanted a ring. George gave me a box of cheese. The ring was buried in the box underneath the cheese. They took the tangible evidence of the fun thing that happened to me, as well as the gift that happened. Most of the things they took were some fun thing, some nice thing, some anniversary or birthday and it's not there anymore."