Charlandra Rachal, who goes by “Char”, is one of the few people I’ve met from Emeryville. Char was born here, came up through the Emeryville school district, in fact, her young son Khalil is a third generation Emeryville resident. Char lives in a small duplex on 64th where her grandparents, former Emeryville Mayor Robert Savage and his wife Theresa, lived and raised her along with her two brothers. A house that could soon be forced into a sale if she can’t convince the courts that she can facilitate the care of her 78-year-old Grandmother.
Most stories you read these days are about longtime residents getting priced-out by rising rents. This is the story of a longtime Emeryville property owner fighting to preserve her generational home and family legacy in the city they helped forge.
Char, her son Khalil and her grandmother Theresa Savage.
Robert Savage, originally from Arkansas, met Theresa in Los Angeles and they moved north together in the 1950’s. They settled in Emeryville where they bought the small duplex on 64th from Robert’s uncle for around $30,000. Emeryville was more of a “Horse & Buggy town” according to Char’s recount from conversations with her Grandma.
Robert Savage served two terms on the Emeryville City Council including two rotations as Mayor in the mid-90’s. He was instrumental in helping bring the Pak ‘n Save to Emeryville which was the area’s only grocery store at the time enabling the nearby Emeryville and Oakland communities to get fresh fruits & vegetables. The Recreation Center on San Pablo is in fact named in his honor and there are plaques dotted around town to commemorate his many achievements for the city.
Robert & Teresa Savage together at a City gala.
Robert Savage passed away on April 5th, 2003 leaving Theresa to take care of Charlandra and her brothers. Tragedy struck the Savage family again when Char’s brother MiAndrew Rachal was shot and killed in West Oakland in 2012. About a year later, Theresa started showing signs of Dementia and her health began deteriorating. According to Char, her brother eschewed Theresa’s regimen of prescribed medications in favor of Eastern medicine which ultimately led to an emergency room visit when she was found barely conscious with failing kidneys.
Theresa’s condition improved after a week in the ICU and Char anticipated her coming back home. “At that point I was told that she was being moved to a care facility and she would never return home.” Char recounts, choking back tears. Because of the circumstances, the county intervened and placed Theresa in an assisted living home in San Leandro and the Public Guardians Office was awarded conservatorship of her estate. They are now trying to force the sale of the Savage house to pay for the $3,500 monthly service. “After only four days in the facility, they told me she was ‘already settled in’.”
Char is determined to keep her grandmother in the house she’s lived for over 50 years and dictate the terms of her final chapter. “This is what’s easiest for them. It’s unfair to her and it’s not what she would have wanted.” Char has stepped in with a plan to bring her Grandmother home and has retained a lawyer to help her. She has filed a petition against the county but the fate of the Savage household is in the hands of the courts.
In-home care is cost-prohibitive and Char works full-time in addition to being a mother. Theresa is mobile, but needs prompting and assistance with hygiene and diet. Char has outlined a plan that would include a regimented schedule with daytime care and activities including mental exercises and regular trips to the Emeryville Senior Center. Theresa receives social security and Char will be contributing $2,000 a month from her own pay in addition to the revenue received from renting out the other unit of their duplex.
“I’m pretty confident. I’m prepared. I’m even planning a welcome home party.” Char is fiercely independent and clearly follows in her Grandmothers footsteps whom she described as ‘a fighter’. “My grandmother would take things as far as she needed to take them to win. My grandfather was the Mayor, but she was the feisty woman behind the scenes.”
At a recent hearing, the judge did not grant either Charlandra or the Public Guardians Office the temporary conservatorship she petitioned for but he did grant a continuance to hear this case in more detail on April 20th. Char is in the fight of her life and at stake is the long Emeryville legacy of the Savage family. “When someone raises you from the time you’re three days old and is my Mother and my Grandmother all wrapped into one, there’s no choice but to win.” The final decision is expected to be handed down on June 7th.
A family friend has created a $5,000 GoFundMe page to help Char continue her fight: