Locals mobilize via OB Rag to help elderly Point Loma resident

by on October 28, 2009 · 39 comments

in Economy, Health, Labor, Media, Ocean Beach, Organizing


Dining-room at Ehmann's house.

Jim Dent, who owns Point Loma Electric, found out the hard way.  He has an elderly client, Robert Ehmann, who asked him to come by his place on Orchard Avenue to do some electrical work. Jim and his assistant arrived, they went inside, and immediately stumbled out.

The stench was too bad. The garbage was too widespread. They almost refused to go back in.  The elderly man, in his mid-80s, could hardly talk, was bent over and could barely walk.  He begged they to do a couple of things.

That’s when Jim Dent realized what he had on his hands.  He had a situation that he couldn’t just walk away from.

He had an elderly resident of the Peninsula in need, Robert Ehmann, with no one else to help him, no family, no available friends.  But he has Ocean Beach – the community that always steps up and helps its own. Or at least that’s the reputation.

Jim Dent is testing this reputation.  OB has stepped up in the past, he maintains, and helped out Willy the Shoeshine guy when his hut burnt down.  The community stepped forward to assist Dago Choppers. He thought OB can help this guy.  So Jim Dent began to organize a bunch of volunteers to clean up the place as best as possible, haul junk away, redo the electricity, plumbing, etc.


Jim Dent emailed Pat James, owner of James Gang, and a friend, and asked for help.  Pat James then turned around and sent us an email asking the OB Rag to do something.  We contacted Dent, and he told us:

This man sleeps on a mattress with rat holes chewed through to the springs. The carpet is rotted away to bare cement.   I’m going to redo his entire electrical system at no charge, but only if I get some volunteers, donations, whatever it takes to get people in there to remove the unusable furniture and garbage. Not much garbage, just decayed personal belongings.

I’m going to put about $500 into electrical parts and install a new meter box and breakers before this place burns down. The all the wiring inside has to be gutted and replaced. It was never done right to begin with. The wires are all chewed through. It’s a time bomb and if anything were to happen I’d have to live with it.

Dent told us that Robert Ehmann is a renowned author and former research scientist.  Ehmann balked at having anyone touch his various computers, as the hard drives contain his works, books, studies.

A week ago, the OB Rag carried a brief article about Jim Dent and Robert, and how Dent was moving to mobilize a bunch of volunteers to help Robert.

KITCHENAnd within hours, Dent already had volunteers calling him and emailing him. People had seen the goodness of his efforts on our blog and were responding.

Since then he has been inundated with emails, queries, questions, offers.  One guy told Dent he was bringing his entire apartment complex. Others pledged money, so much that Dent opened up an account at Wells Fargo in Ehmann’s name for donations.

Dent has had $800 in pledges.  Yet, he only has had $25 placed in his hands. Pat James received another offer of $50.  “I’m hoping people will come through,” he told me this morning, “as I have limited funds myself.”   Jim hopes that all this is not hype.

Dent has organized a work party for this Saturday, October 31st. He hopes volunteers can show up at Ehmann’s residence at 4021 Orchard Avenue by 8:30 a.m. He will have tools, masks, and gloves, plus a trailer to haul away the junk.

Jim did open an account at Wells Fargo under the name of the Robert Ehmann Contribution Fund, which Jim will give you if you are able to donate.  Cash would be a lot better, he said.

Jim needs to have the place emptied and cleaned before he can rewire it.  He warns, ” I’ve said it 10 times and I’m going to say it again. It’s the smell.”

Robert Ehmann sent Dent a letter thanking him for his initial work. Here it is:

Dear sirs.

Please accept my profound thankfulness for your great work on Tuesday of October 20. What you must have had to overcome …. in order to do your work (ugh all that awful mess). But bravely you went on ! I had forsaken all hope of ever achieving a solution to electrical problems here. They have urged themselves for over 20 years.

My compliments to your instant and astute diagnosis of the many challenges. The complexities, amid the negative environmental factors, have put many hopes to grief. That you instantly perceived the extent of troubles and struggled to overcome them with your mighty courage and insight …. was heartwarming indeed. I owe you far more than your estimate. How can I now offer you more in fit proportion to how much benefit your work has wrought upon my life. I look forward to receiving your recommendation for a helping hand to upgrade my (ugh) kitchen to the majestic level of your magnificent installation. My first promise to you will be to keep the new stove in its present glory by careful dutiful attention! Yes! Cleanliness is next to impossible, sometimes, but I expect to summon my best to overcome.

Thanks for your efforts, your courtesy and heroic stance before the sorry condition of affairs. You are good men and true ! My second promise is to offer you first refusal on all tasks that are right for your exemplary profession. You have great perseverance in the face of difficulty. I owe you a favor for bringing the old stove out to the front yard and for bringing in the mail, which is getting more difficult to reach these days. Hopefully I will be able to sell something someday that could veritably fund the wondrous magic you have projected for a new j-box out front. This has been a banner day for me. The noise of your progress was a symphony of creativity.  Who knows. Perhaps some day even the back rooms will have their own circuit …. even with a 20 watt Bathroom ! And a real water heater in a real first-rate electrical circuit.  As you know, Einstein found a place for electricity in the cosmos of our world, but you have the power to give it a beautiful light and inspiration …. day after day! Point Loma Electrical forever!

Your most grateful and supportive client.

Bob Ehmann

Dent just emailed us:

I just paid for a 10X7X4′ tall dumpster for $352 with my Visa . The donations will have to cover this. I’ll still need more cleaning stuff from Home Depot. The dumpster will arrive on Saturday sometime between 8 & noon and be picked up on Monday. No tires, appliances, car parts, electronics. Good deal.

Jim Dent, in his mid-fifties, has owned Point Loma Electric for 22 years, having lived on the Peninsula for 25 years. He has been involved with the community before, as he used to string the lights for the OB Christmas Tree for over a decade.  He sat on the OB Town Council Board of Directors for much of that time.  One of his proudest moments, he told me, was the year that he strung white holiday lights from Sunset Cliffs Boulevard all the way down to Abbott Street, on both sides of Newport.

Growing up in Virginia, Jim made it out to San Diego once during a vacation. He finally decided to move to San Diego, and eventually ended up in Ocean Beach, as he kept visiting friends at the beach, and decided to move his duds to our neighborhood.

Jim was amazed at what our blog did for his quest to mobilize volunteers to help Ehmann out. “How did I live so long here, and not hear about you guys?” he asked rhetorically.

And we’re amazed at Jim Dent.  For not walking away from a bad situation. And for inspiring the rest of us to help an old lonely guy without anybody else – except us.

If you can help – contact Jim at 224-0672 or his email yrman2@gmail.com .  The best thing to do is show up at Robert’s house at 8:30 a.m. and be ready for the stench, and be ready to meet Jim Dent.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar mr fresh October 28, 2009 at 2:56 pm

once again, the OB Rag does something positive. yay.


avatar Pat October 28, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Thanks to the OB Rag for helping us get the word out.
Thanks to Jim Dent for not walking away from a terrible situation.
Happy anniversary OB Rag. Your providing a invaluable service to our community.


avatar Dave Gilbert October 28, 2009 at 4:18 pm

For what it’s worth, I’m there in spirit. You ALL kick major ass!!!


avatar lane tobias October 28, 2009 at 4:25 pm

embodies the spirit of our community to a t.


avatar Jim Dent October 28, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Thanks Dave for the kind words. Only one correction: I’ve been in business here in OB for 22 years, not 11! Probably just a typo. Thanks so much for getting the word out, and many thanks to Pat and Susan of The James Gang, friends of mine for many years. After this project is completed, there may be others who need our help. And a special thanks to all the volunteers who show up Saturday. I’ve had $800 pledged, but so far, only $75 has been deposited at Wells Fargo. For those who still wish to contribute, call me or email for the banking account info. Until the debit card for this account arrives, I’ve been using my own debit card. I’ve already paid $352 for the dumpster. Thank you.
PS, I also work for pay…


avatar Patty Jones October 28, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Hey Jim, We fixed that typo… Sorry ’bout that!


avatar PSD October 28, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Re-posting this from the article where this discussion started, as it might be useful in explaining the cash flow issue…this is what I encountered when I went to drop $25 after picking up the promised living room chair (it’s in the back of my SUV right now, call me and we can talk about dropping it off and getting you my trailer):

Hey Jim – not sure if anyone else has mentioned this, but the people at Wells today when I tried to make a deposit to the fund really kinda gave me a goofy look, tried to quiz me on who Robert Ehmann was and who you were and why I was donating – at the end of the ordeal they told me they suspected a scam and advised me against depositing. You might ask if anyone else has had a similar encounter…they even asked me as I left to please call them back if I do indeed find out the fund is bogus.


avatar Jim Dent October 29, 2009 at 2:45 am

Pimp Shack Dave,
I’m going to send your comment to Wells Fargo via email directly to the woman who opened the account and told me how to endorse the checks. Another situation of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. A friend made a deposit without any problems in Las Vegas. If you’d prefer, you can give it to me when I get the chair and I’ll take it in. Thanks for telling me. WF is going to get a load full from me.
Jim PS, send me your number again. I have so many emails, it’d take me an hour to find it.


avatar Jim Dent October 29, 2009 at 12:14 pm

From PSD. RE: Donation refused by Wells Fargo because of possible fraud.
This problem has been fixed. The teller that PSD tried to make the deposit with did not do her complete job by checking all the account information. Otherwise, it would have been accepted. The account manager I set this account up with spoke to me on the phone today and apologized and promised it won’t happen again.

Jim Dent


avatar PSD October 29, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Right on Jim, glad to hear it’s straightened out. In the end they did take my $25, so all’s good there. Nice meeting you today, and thanks for storing the chair – with the good news on the new mattress, it looks like there’s at least a starting point for putting the place back together when the time comes. You should have the promised trailer by tomorrow morning.

While I’m glad to see volunteers are in no short supply, unfortunately cash is for a lot of us these days…next week’s paycheck is 100% eaten by rent, but you can bet I’ll find another few bucks by the 15th – sorry you’re having to front most of the cost on this, but I’ve got faith in the community that you’ll get all your money back, and hopefully then some so you can take on another project.


avatar George October 28, 2009 at 10:26 pm

The Rag is OB’s Facebook.


avatar doug porter October 29, 2009 at 9:18 am

To complicate things here….we have a presence on Facebook also. it’s OBRagBlog at Facebook. In addition to all the great stories you read here, post an additional five or so stories a day from around the internets that we think you might find interesting.


avatar Frank Gormlie October 29, 2009 at 11:56 am

Doug – I hope you saw the comment by someone recently who said ‘OB’s facebook is the OB Rag.’ great. and good job, dude. It’s an unsung task you do, handling the Rag’s FaceBook – but somebody with journalistic talent needs to do it.


avatar George October 29, 2009 at 12:24 pm

OB Rag’s Facebook presence is great, and I like the news ‘tweets’ it provides. OB Rag, though, has its own unique way of engaging people, which is what led to my comment.


avatar Shawn Conrad October 29, 2009 at 8:20 am

Now this is awesome news. This is what I like to see.

Awesome job.


avatar Jim Dent October 29, 2009 at 8:27 am

Awsome community.


avatar Chico October 29, 2009 at 9:29 am

Thanks Jim for your inspiration, and OB Rags for spreading the word about the good deed. This story touched my heart and I have marked it on my calendar to come out and help on Saturday morning. I hope that I can be of assistance with labor and/or donation once I’m there.


avatar Editor October 29, 2009 at 11:57 am

We’ve just been informed that Bob Davis of Al Davis Furniture, Mattress World just donated a brand new mattress! Yay Bob!


avatar Jim Dent October 29, 2009 at 6:48 pm

Boy, I wish he’d offer me one!


avatar Jim Dent October 29, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Thanks Chico,
There is likely to be an army there on Saturday. I plan to have a sign-in page for future Rag thank you’s to all who worked and donated.
Jim Dent


avatar mr fresh October 29, 2009 at 12:37 pm

counting down… waiting for mainstream media to pick up on this and claim the credit… 3….2….1……


avatar Jim Dent October 29, 2009 at 6:42 pm

All the credit goes to everyone on this post and all my personal friends on Face Book. Even my mom donated from North Carolina and friends from Virginia, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. Who believes the media anyway? My dad told me not to believe anything I heard and only half of what i see!


avatar Nancy October 29, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Proud of you all who helped, but I wonder what will happen to him in the future.
It sounds as if there might be more need to find out why he is in such need, as there should be Soc. Sec., royalties, etc. involved that he may not be capable of using.
Don’t mean to be negative, but there’s more to this than just taking care of this current need. Does he need homemaker services?


avatar Jim Dent October 29, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Nancy, there are people already asking the same thing. We’re going to wait until the house is clean, safe and livable before maybe having social services look in on him. I don’t think he needs a care taker, but he needs to learn not to throw used cat food cans in the corner. That’s what’s drawing all the rats. He’s an ex research scientist, is still very sharp, but lacks sanitary cares.


avatar Jim Dent October 29, 2009 at 3:33 pm

I just stopped by to chat with Robert and make sure that he is aware of the assault that is to take place at his house on Saturday morning. He is very aware because I had wrote him a letter last week. He is overwhelmed by the generosity of the people who are involving themselves in this massive clean-up. He said to me “”I don’t know how to be worthy of this. What can I do to be worthy?” I didn’t know what to say. I said to him that it’s between you and God. That’s all I could think of.

Now, be prepared. There are rats. I saw 3 today while sitting in his kitchen talking. I heard noises in the cupboards and I don’t have to wonder what it was. I have a pellet rifle, but don’t know how folks would feel about me shooting rats. Yeee-ha! I lived on 6 acres from 2005 until 2007 and killed rattle snakes, gophers, ground squirls and such. They were destroying our lawn. The rats are going to be present while we are working to clean the place, so be aware.
Today, I bought good, quality dust masks, gloves, wide shovels, mops and ringer bucket, terry towels, Pine Sol, $400 worth of stuff. I can kill rats with a shovel and am not afraid of them. I’ve worked under houses that had lots of rats before. I have also arranged for a dumpster to be delivered Saturday. I bought a ton of 48 gallon garbage bags. Much of his trash is recyclable. I’ll need everyone to sign in please when you arrive for the OB Rag after it’s finished. Give credit where credit is deserved. Jennifer Cook at Luminous Hair next to Poma’s gave me a free hair cut today to put toward the donations. That’s $25. I’m also keeping track of all donations by name, or trying to. This is getting to be overwhelming, while trying to run electrical jobs. See you all on Saturday, 8:15-8:30 am.

Jim Dent


avatar annagrace October 29, 2009 at 4:40 pm

I had an opportunity to talk to Jim today, and thank him personally for all he is doing for Mr. Ehmnan. Nancy- I raised the same concerns that you did about follow up care that will probably be necessary to keep this gentleman in his home.

Jim has now committed over $800 out of pocket (and on his credit card) to provide a dumpster and cleaning supplies etc. The best way to help Mr. Ehmann right now is to provide Jim with the financial resources to secure and clean the house. We can’t put a small businessman with a good heart in financial jeopardy. As Nancy noted, Mr. Ehmann is getting Social Security at the very least, and his problem may not be financial. We will be following up on that next week when the dust settles.

Jim is willing to give his labor and expertise. Our contribution can be the financial resources he needs to cover materials, and bless his heart, to pay one of his employees to assist.

Call Jim to find out where to send a check (224-0672), or stop by on Saturday (4021 Orchard Avenue) to give him one.

And that’s how we look after each other….


avatar Jim Dent October 29, 2009 at 6:47 pm

My address is 2255 Ron Way, SD 92123. I have a running list, although short for now, of all contributions. I also have a copy of all receipts of materials purchased. I was expecting to cover the cost of the electrical work (parts) about $1000, but any donations will help. The price I gave Mr. Ehmann for the work he needs done was $6,500.00. Now, the labor is free and we’ll see how the contributions work out for the parts. Thanks to all again.


avatar claudia j October 29, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Jim, WOW, here we are again reaching out!!!!! It is so rewarding…..You really brought up some memories, dago choppers, willy’s, it’s amazing how things come together in OB….AS I’ve said it takes shakers & movers!!!!!! Where are you getting the dumpster from???? Also do you need a porta pottie?? Call me first thing Friday morning!!!! 619 846-6269…. Keep in touch….Claudia J


avatar Jim Dent October 29, 2009 at 10:14 pm

Hey beautiful! I’ve been meaning to get in touch to give you my new debit #. I got the dumpster from Daily Disposal Service out of Lakeside. Gary from Pt. Loma Fix it gave me a $15 off coupon, so I called them. People have been great. I think there are many who will donate the promised funds in person. I was pledged over $800. So far, I’ve received about $230 and some nice furniture. I hadn’t though of a porta-jon. There is a working bathroom, but rats?? We did 2 small jobs for this man last week and decided to do something about his situation. It’s kind of exploded! There may be a large army there on Saturday, but you never know. I am redoing all his electrical before his house burns down. I’m surprised it hasen’t already. I’ll give you a call tomorrow. I also have something for your office I made. You’ll get a kick out of it.


avatar jim grant October 30, 2009 at 1:09 pm

I tried to transfer funds from my WF account to his…it would not complete the transfer.


avatar claudia j October 30, 2009 at 8:24 pm

Jim, Great Job!!! You know the old saying OB helps OB….. I talked to my friend at Spank’s and she was having a potty delivered today…. Kept in touch…. xoxo cj


avatar Erin October 30, 2009 at 8:50 pm

I WILL be there… I’m just not sure when I’ll be there. I have to work with the lovely San Diego MTS to get where I’m going… and buses are not the most fun mode of transportation in San Diego on Saturday mornings… argh. If anyone is in the North Park/Abnormal Heights area, I would gratefully pay for some gas to OB. :)


avatar Jim Dent October 30, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Erin, if you can be ready by 7:30, or 7:45, give me your address and I’ll pick you up.
Call me tonight or in the morning at 619 224-0672. I’m outta here by 7 am. I have a trailer to haul over there and a ton of materials for everyone. I live right at 805 and Murray Ridge Rd. So I can get on 805 so. to 163, or Washington, University, Adams Ave, all in 5 minutes. It’s 9 pm Friday right now.

Jim Dent


avatar Erin October 30, 2009 at 9:13 pm

I’m gonna call you right now! Thanks, you’re the greatest!


avatar Jim Dent October 30, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Confusing me with Mohamed Ali, (The Greatest) but thanks.


avatar Gary Gilmore October 30, 2009 at 11:17 pm

Jim, since I can’t make the clean-up I’d like to kick in a few bucks. If you give me a call at the shop or come by I’ll polish all your wedding rings. (A little humor there Jim)


avatar Jim Dent October 31, 2009 at 6:11 am

Thanks for the offer Gary, but Sandra and I split last July. You can replace one of those watch batteries again. One didn’t work! Thanks, and don’t worry about the rings. You didn’t know.



avatar Seth Connolly October 31, 2009 at 12:05 am

Just awesome, guys. Bravo to all involved.


avatar Jim Dent October 31, 2009 at 6:12 am

Thanks Seth. Today’s the big clean-up.


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