On Saturday, Mary Clark moved out of the Arlington County apartment where she had lived for 33 years, ending a two-year struggle with her landlord, who had ordered the 84-year-old woman out because she refused to stop baby sitting at the adults-only complex.
"I guess you have to make the best of it. That's all you can do," Clark said as she packed the belongings that had accumulated in her two-bedroom unit at the Fillmore Gardens apartment complex, a 20-acre compound just off Columbia Pike.
The syndicate that owns Fillmore Gardens began eviction proceedings against Clark in early 1984 because she refused to stop baby sitting Jessica Patterson, who is now 3 years old and is one of about 50 children for whom Clark has cared since her husband died 16 years ago.
Known to her many charges as "Grandma Clark," she said she loved baby sitting and needed the money to supplement her Social Security income of $540 a month. She said she spent about $500 of that to rent her apartment and garage space.
The landlord, citing the adults-only policy in effect since 1972, took her to court after receiving complaints from her neighbors. Last month, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld a lower court's jury finding in favor of the landlord.
Elliott Burka, managing partner for the owners of Fillmore Gardens, cited concerns about Clark's frailty and about legal liability if there was an injury because of the little girl's presence.
In late February, when the incident received nationwide attention, the development management announced that it would not follow through with the eviction until May 1, when the weather improved.
Connie Patterson, Jessica's mother, helped move Clark to a new apartment in the Columbia Park complex on South Buchanan Street.
"They allow children, they know she baby sits, and it's fine with them," said Patterson, who will continue to use Clark's baby sitting services until her daughter starts school.
Patterson said she worries how Clark will survive financially once Jessica stops coming. Clark, who receives a $22 rent-relief check from the county each month, faces a three-year wait for subsidized housing, Patterson said.