Massachusetts Yankee finds her niche in Montevallo

By NANCY WILSTACH / Community Columnist

Carol Armstrong Kehoe, 71, left her Massachusetts home three years ago for a house in Montevallo that she bought based on photographs and a really good price.

And the outcome has been as appealing as those Boston baked beans she serves up alongside a friend’s pulled pork at a football tailgate.

Kehoe bought a house out of foreclosure for less than $40,000, and she did not set eyes on it until it was hers.

“I wasn’t nervous at all,” she said, “because I had managed to convince myself that I was rich.”

The house was not exactly in turn-key condition when she bought it. There were those hideous dropped ceilings and those walls covered in cheap, buckling paneling.

“Oh, there was a lot of work to do,” she said. “It has taken two years. There are still things that need to be done, but I am comfortable right now.”

Kehoe always liked to draw in charcoal and pen-and-ink, “but, when I came here, I started using oils and watercolors. I joined the Alabaster Senior Center, and I am taking art classes there. I have made friends from my class, and Pat Hall is a fabulous teacher.”

The Kehoe house sits on a high point across Shelby Street from Shoal Creek just north of the J.A. Brown Bridge. Kehoe’s home now smiles on the neighborhood through restored tall windows.

And that paneling is history. Visitors enter across a spacious, inviting wrap-around porch through a front door that sparkles with leaded glass sidelights and a fixed transom. They step into a long and wide dogtrot hall, walls adorned with Kehoe’s paintings.

For the outdated kitchen: “I bought cabinets on Craig’s List,” Kehoe said.

The new front door, also from Craig’s List, replaced a dreary old thing that looked lost in the newly restored height of the interior walls.

She loves the location: “I can walk uptown, to the park, to the college. I love the art gallery and, when I first came, I started meeting people at Falcon Art Supply, and I never, ever have to shovel snow again.”

Unlike some places where it can take years to find a niche, Montevallo’s situation as a college town makes it more welcoming. Despite the Massachusetts accent (“kyahh” for car, for example), Kehoe, a widow since 2009, found people here who understood her and welcomed her.

The welcome extended to the point that she slid easily into the job of hosting an annual Montevallo Christmas Eve party—something Rebecca and Wayne Beatty had done for some 30 years in their Indian Highlands home. The Beattys were hanging up their sleigh bells and looking around for someone to take the reins.

“It was so sweet for her to come in and pick it up,” Rebecca Beatty said. “What has been fun is watching her become acclimated to the Southern culture. She has added spice to our little diverse town, and she fits right in.”