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Staff photo by Don Himsel Claire Twardosky has lived in her Nashua home on Damon Avenue for over 35 years. She receives an elderly tax exemption from the city.
Monday, December 28, 2009

People who qualify grateful to keep house

NASHUA – Claire Twardosky calls her home a museum.

As such, its collection includes mementos of the life she, her late husband, Marion Edward Twardosky, and their four children built there over 37 years.

Her husband passed away in August of 2008. Claire Twardosky found herself a widow suffering from a respiratory illness. She found it difficult on a fixed income to pay for her medicine and other expenses and to keep up with the taxes on her home.

Fortunately, she qualified for the city’s elderly tax exemption. The exemption reduced by $180,000 the value, for tax purposes, of her North End home. With the exemption, the amount she pays annually to the city in local property taxes was cut from over $4,000 to under $1,500.

“It means the difference between me having to sell my home and live with relatives,” Twardosky said.

With her respiratory condition and other health concerns, Twardosky believes she couldn’t live by herself in an apartment.

At 76, she remains independent, going to a support group for her condition and playing on the piano the ’70s tunes she loves.

Without the tax exemption, she fears she would lose the life she has built here.

Twardosky is one of 836 residents who received the tax exemption this year. The exemption was established by state law, and most if not all communities in the state provide it. Nashua this year raised the income guidelines to qualify for the exemption. It was the first such increase in seven years.

Twardosky isn’t alone in saying the exemption has meant the difference between staying in their home or having to sell it and move in with relatives, into an apartment or, in some cases, an assisted living center.

“Oh my God, I’m a widow, so it meant a lot to me,” said Claire Boucher, 85, a former longtime owner of a Delude Street home.

Boucher sold her home the day after Thanksgiving and moved into elderly housing. The tax exemption had helped her remain in her home over the past eight years, she said.

“For those who can, they’re lucky to get it. It costs so much money to live today,” Boucher said.

But some residents who had received the exemption lost it by cashing in a retirement account, said Ward 7 Alderman Dick Flynn, who sponsored legislation to raise the permissible income levels for the exemption.

Sometimes, a resident will need the retirement money to pay a medical bill or to just make ends meet, Flynn said. They really don’t have extra expendable income, but the tax exemptions guidelines, which are set by the state, treats the retirement money as income, Flynn said.

Twardosky feels fortunate to be able to stay in her home where she lived for nearly four decades with her husband, who played clarinet and saxophone with a U.S. Navy band while in the service, and then with a local orchestra.

She would have hated to leave not only the home, but a neighborhood where the residents look out after each other, plowing her driveway in winter, for example, and checking in on her to make sure she’s OK.

“I would hate to leave this neighborhood,” Twardosky said. “I have such good neighbors.”

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or