Henri Grass, the 74-year-old Camarillo resident who laid claim to part of a $5-million estate once owned by the city’s founder, has agreed to a $75,000 settlement, both he and the estate’s lawyers said this week.
Grass based his claim on his 27-year live-in relationship with Shifra Haran, the sister of Edith (Tweedy) Haran Camarillo Rouce, who died last year, leaving a $5-million estate and no will. The administrator and heirs of the estate maintained that Grass had no legal claim to it.
Grass, who accepted the settlement last Thursday, said he is in poor health and cannot afford a prolonged court battle. But he said the offer failed to meet his expectations, adding that it denies him access to the Camarillo house he and Shifra Haran had shared since the early 1960s. A December fire at the house, which was owned by the two sisters, had forced him to stop living there.
Initially, Grass had said he wanted ownership of the house. However, “if instead of the house they would have given me at least one mobile home, that would have been fair,” he said Monday.
A spokeswoman for the estate called the settlement fair.
Grass, a French emigre who made a living repairing radios for vintage cars, said he has until April 1 to move up to $200,000 worth of old radios and radio diagrams from the house on Palm Street. The estate’s heirs plan to sell it.
Grass has complained repeatedly that he has nowhere to stock his inventory and that renting an apartment will quickly whittle away his settlement.
Instead, he said he would like to find a woman who might enjoy his companionship and move himself and his many belongings into her home.
“I’m the best illustration that it’s not good for a man to be alone. One of the ladies of the county should propose marriage to me,” he said.
The estate to which Grass laid claim included the Palm Street house, two mobile homes that the sisters bought to inhabit in case of a devastating earthquake, 100 boxes of uncatalogued goods and 29 acres of land near Adolfo Road that are planted with row crops. Adolfo Camarillo, the city’s founder, left the land to Tweedy, his daughter-in-law, upon his death in 1958.
The acreage is part of the original Spanish land grant of Rancho Calleguas, which Adolfo Camarillo’s father, Juan, purchased for $3,000 in gold coins in the mid-1800s.
Grass insisted that he was entitled to a part of the estate because he married Shifra Haran. Spokesmen for the estate pointed out that Grass was unable to produce a marriage certificate and that California doesn’t recognize common-law marriages.
Shifra died in August; Tweedy died weeks later.