Her tale of the castle traces to the late 1920s. She was living with her parents in Seattle when her father suddenly deserted his wife and 5-year-old Mary Lou.
“He said he wanted to pursue his dream of being an artist,” Mary Lou once recalled. “It broke my heart that he left us.”
A few years after his disappearance, letters began to trickle in, postmarked from Arizona.
Mary Lou hoped he would return someday, but it wasn’t to be. In 1945, a telegram brought news of her father’s death. Then, as if from the grave, a final letter arrived: “Dearest Mary Lou: Can you forgive me? It wasn’t art I wanted, it was you. I left home not because I wanted freedom but because I had tuberculosis.”
He shared his secret that he had been building a home in Phoenix. Curious, Mary Lou and her mother set out to see for themselves. It was almost 10 p.m. when they arrived. After checking into a downtown hotel, they decided not to wait for morning. They took a taxi and headed south, knowing only that the house was near Seventh Street at South Mountain.
As the cab drew closer, the castle’s form took shape. Mary Lou suddenly understood. When she was about 3 years old, she loved to watch her father build sand castles. She asked if he would someday make her one big enough to live in. As she gazed that night at her new home, she realized he had kept his promise.