Welcome to our Tuesday Slot, this week Irene Parker explains why she is an advocate. As many of our readers will know, Irene has been coming increasingly under attack by the industry for her role in helping timeshare owners with their “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” stories. This replaces the scheduled article which will be published at a later date.
Two Timeshare Developers Want to Depose Me
I asked why? I’m told they probably want to ask:
What personal benefit do you gain by your efforts?
My answer: A reduction in survivor guilt
By Irene Parker
April 9, 2019
Abraham Lincoln described it best. Abe was riding in a carriage. He asked the driver to stop, got out of the carriage, waded through mud, and pulled a stuck pig out of the mud. When he got back into the carriage his driver told him he was a good person to have waded through mud to help the pig. Abe answered back, “No, I am a selfish person because seeing the pig stuck in the mud made me uncomfortable. Pulling the pig out of the mud made me feel better.”
I was losing sleep over being deposed by two timeshare developers’ attorneys over a lawsuit. I’m told these attorneys are aggressive and lose their cool if you don’t give them the answer they want. Timeshare members communicate with this debt collection law firm. An article was published about the lawsuit a while ago. Inside Timeshare and I were mentioned as supporting the law firm being sued. I reread the article yesterday. It sounds like lawyers quibbling. I asked an attorney why they would want to depose me. He speculated that they might want to ask:
What personal benefit do you get out of your efforts?
I compare myself to John Walsh, host of the popular American television show America’s Most Wanted. His four year old son was murdered. A tsunami of grief and horror can turn inward and destroy you. If directed outward, you devote your life to helping victims. A detective said you never get over a homicide.
I have only faced pure evil three times in my life. Many have told me I should write a book. This blog will suffice.
My first encounter with evil occurred at age 24. My first husband Raymond was diagnosed at age 24 with “Wilson’s Disease” (hepatica-lenticular degeneration). His sister died of the disease two months after she married. Ray lost his ability to speak, drooled constantly, teeth rotted, fingers turned to pretzels and bizarre personality changes materialized. He had been a caring EMT, but gradually over three years became dangerous and violent due to the disease process.
In the middle of all this my best friend since third grade, Jayme Simmons, author of her version of I-Ching, called. Her husband John almost killed her, her mom and her two year old. Her mom was left with bite marks on her arm. He was jailed for 30 days. There he told everyone he would murder her when released. My friend was in jail with him. Dental students had a habit of not paying their parking tickets.
Jayme lived with me the last two months of her life before he shot her in the face three times in front of her two year old. I was to testify premeditation, but he switched his plea to guilty. The judge sentenced him to seven years. Seven years. Jayme was a songwriter. The song “I’m not Lisa, my name is Julie” is prophetic because the adoptive family had to get her husband’s permission from jail in order to adopt the child. They changed her name to Julie. This happened in 1974. Jayme was stunningly beautiful. When Jessi Colter turns her head a certain way, she looks just like Jayme. Jayme asked me to look out for Julie. My eyes are blue.
Evil #2 happened after I retired from Edward Jones Hawaii in September 2001. We exchanged our timeshare for a timeshare in northern Michigan. The church we attended was embroiled in a horrific controversy over a renovation. The prior priest had received death threats. It was the new priest’s first Sunday. He began, “I know five priests have refused to come here but I’m not afraid of you.” No one played the piano, so I asked the priest if he wanted me to play as we still had another week’s vacation. Father offered me a full-time job that came with a $500,000 pipe organ renovation. The pipe organ renovation sealed the deal.
Three years later, I noticed a headline in our local paper, “Unholy Childhood School of Jesus” about how Notre Dame Nuns at our sister parish had sexually abused Chippewa and Odawa Indian boys from the 1st to the 7th grades. Long story short, since I filled in at the cathedral on the pipe organ, I knew the Bishop at least to say hi. I arranged a meeting between Tribal Peacemaker Paul Raphael and the Bishop. When I wrote to the Bishop, he replied, “I don’t know how to stop it (Catholic sex abuse in general).”
At first Peacemaker, Paul didn’t want to meet the Bishop. He had not been abused. He had been told to turn around and watch TV. The nuns only abused dark-skinned Indian boys. Peacemaker Paul asked me how meeting the Bishop would help them. I said, “It won’t. But it will help the Bishop and maybe stop a child from being abused.” When I met Peacemaker Paul at the Diocese, I could sense how difficult it was for him to face his evil.
I introduced Peacemaker Paul to the Bishop. I held their hands and I prayed to Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Tecumseh. I left them and waited outside with my husband. Don said if it only takes a few minutes, this didn’t work. They talked for over an hour. When Peacemaker Paul left us, it was the first time I saw him smile.
The end result was the Bishop issued a formal apology in the local newspaper. This meant a lot to the tribe. When I first asked about this horror, one priest I worked for said, “There’s no bonafide evidence to prove that happened.” This will sound familiar to timeshare victims, especially in Florida and Nevada.
The four-part articles about the abuse were published in 2008.
I was introduced to Whistleblowers of America over a year ago. A veteran I helped introduced me to the organization. Last summer I attended the Whistleblower Summit in Washington D.C. This summer I have been invited to be a panel participant. I will explain the advocacy “bug” one catches when a troubled life you touch turns calm and I will explain how fighting predators, whether child abuse or timeshare, is similar. I met OpEd News at the summit:
The Unholy Child School of Jesus experience led me to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer. I raised enough money through car shows and with the help of a grant writer, to work two years to develop and launch Fostering Futures, a program to assist teens ageing out of foster care.
Evil #3 is predatory timeshare sales. There are timeshare sales agents intentionally harming the young and the elderly. Perpetrators can earn top dollar, sometimes over $2 million a year. I have many horror stories. Leo Gomez last words to me before he died of pancreatic cancer were, “I want my story told.”
I have been described by one timeshare developer to Attorneys General and the Better Business Bureau: “It appears they talked to Irene Parker, a third party, not a lawyer, not a professional journalist, a self-styled “advocate” helping her “clients.” It is of note that the member changed their story after talking to her. She purports to get people out of their legally binding contracts.”
What I do is direct a member like Leo Gomez to file complaints with regulatory agencies if the member describes unfair and deceptive sales practices.
Yes, Leo changed his story after talking to me. I bought the same points Leo purchased. It was not necessary for Leo to give up his points to switch from one program to another. Leo didn’t know he had been duped until he talked to me.
I first told Leo I did not hear anything deceptive, but when he told me he only had 30 days left to live, I was concerned. Leo was 100% disabled due to Agent Orange. He earned two Purple Hearts and was the sweetest man ever. I went to sleep that night but woke with one of my timeshare moments. I asked myself, “Why did Leo switch programs??” I called Leo the next morning and asked. He said, “They said I had to because my resort went bankrupt.” My next question, “Leo, did the sales agent know you have pancreatic cancer when he told you this?” Leo answered yes. Leo was a victim of financial elder abuse. Leo is one of 102 veterans and active duty service members to report timeshare fraud.
As a result of Jayme’s murder, I was hospitalized three times between the ages of 24 to 28 for symptoms relating to PTSD. My undergraduate degree was financed by Vocational Rehabilitation. I credit my husband with saving my life. I understand why soldiers suffering from PTSD, survivor’s guilt, commit suicide.
I also helped a family who purchased from the developer who wants to depose me. Mom had given birth to a blue baby. The baby had to have open heart surgery in her first week of life and then a second surgery. The timeshare sales agent told the mom when she bought the timeshare that it would be easy to sell. Mom submitted an article about their financial hardship. She sent me pictures of the baby with a smile that broke my heart, the baby smiling with oxygen tubes in her nose.
The parents were stressed beyond words and worried about timeshare foreclosure. I sent a draft of the article to the timeshare company’s media department for comment. They resolved the complaint. The article was scrapped.
I did not remember the mom’s name or the baby’s name. I remembered the media contact’s name because he asked for an additional week to respond due to damage sustained from hurricane Maria. I said two weeks was fine. Right before the article was to be published mom called and said they had resolved their dispute. I recently found mom’s Facebook page and there was the baby. Beautiful and strong, sitting in a flower garden looking at what could be a butterfly, with that same smile.
That’s why I do this. I take calls from timeshare members desperate, angry and confused. When I tell them how to proceed with regulatory complaints, if they are dismissed with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say,” they become empowered.
I hope this answers the questions two developers are likely to ask me, “What personal benefit do you gain from your efforts?”
I doubt the lawyers will understand or accept this answer. It’s the truth. I don’t think those so motivated by greed will be able to understand.
Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced:
We seek to provide timeshare members with a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market, and to educate prospective buyers.
Thank you, Irene, for all the great work you do for timeshare owners, Inside Timeshare knows that you get a tremendous amount of support from our readers and the members of the facebook groups you have helped to get started. Keep up the good work and let the industry be damned.