HELENA, Mont. – A World War II veteran who lists a $981 monthly Social Security check as his only income has had to move out of his western Montana home after his late wife's medical bills led him to file for bankruptcy.
Warren Bodeker, 89, was ordered by a bankruptcy judge to leave the home that he and his wife built in Plains. His case has gone viral on the Internet after the group Oathkeepers posted a YouTube video featuring him and wrote a sympathetic account of his story on its website.
Bodeker, who has prostate cancer and has been staying with friends, said he is tired from the months-long legal fight, but hopes that he can halt the sale of his home before it goes through at the end of the month.
"They need to stop this sale of this property," he said Friday. "The price is wrong, and it will leave me with no money. There will be nothing left. I'm not going to have anything."
Bodeker said the home and its 10-acre property is worth more than $300,000. The Bigfork attorney overseeing his bankruptcy case is selling it for $155,000.
Christy Brandon, the trustee, said that price is $5,000 more than the estimated value that Bodeker had quoted her.
The spotlight on Bodeker's case has resulted in threats to Brandon. Among the hate mail that she has submitted to court was a note that said: "No doubt, if there is a God, he has a special place reserved for you in hell."
Bodeker said he has been overwhelmed with the support of people who have contributed money for his legal defense.
Brandon did not respond to calls and emails for comment. Last week, she filed court documents that claimed Bodeker mischaracterized court proceedings by saying that she ousted a veteran from his home and that he would be forced to exhume his wife's body.
Lorna Bodeker, who died of cancer, is buried on the property. Bodeker said he plans to be buried there when he dies. The former carpenter had built the home in 2000, and the couple moved there to retire after living in Spokane and Los Angeles.
Brandon said Bodeker waived his homestead exemption and agreed to the house's sale, and that she never threatened to exhume his wife's remains. Brandon has asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ralph Kirscher to order Bodeker to post a correction on the Oathkeepers' website and other websites where the claims appeared.
The judge has ordered Bodeker to leave the home, noting that Bodeker had filed for bankruptcy relief, "which carries burdens as well as benefits;" that Bodeker had waived his homestead exemption; and that he had failed to disclose some of his assets.
Those assets included a stuffed Dalls sheep head later sold by Brandon for $450 and gold and silver buried in his yard that Bodeker said was appraised at $66,000.
Bodeker said he did not consider the gold and silver to be an asset, because he buried it so that "we would have money to pay our property taxes and buy food and not depend on the government for welfare" if the economy soured. He said he was threatened with charges of fraud for hiding them, so he agreed to waive his homestead exemption and allow the sale of his home.
"I wanted to get the thing settled and get on with my life," he said. "I released my homestead, then they dropped the price they were selling the house for. I objected, but it didn't make any difference to (Brandon)."
Bodeker filed for bankruptcy in February after credit card bills and medical treatment for his wife racked up more than $109,000. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and told she had up to six months to live. She died in 2011.
Earlier this month, Bodeker himself was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He missed a June 12 court hearing because he was being treated for a kidney stone at a hospital in Helena, where he then found out about the cancer.
The legal and administrative fees in the bankruptcy proceedings are piling up, even after his attorney withdrew from the case this spring. Bodeker has been representing himself.
A friend who is housing Bodeker, Roxsanna Ryan, said the total cost of the creditors and fees is now estimated at $166,000. That would negate any of the proceeds he will see from the sale of the home.
Bodeker had been a paratrooper during World War II, making three combat jumps in the Philippines. He said he was part of a successful mission to free more than 2,100 prisoners at a Japanese camp. He left the Army in 1946.
He said he hopes that he will be able to hire another attorney, but acknowledged that he does not know whether he will be successful in his attempts to get back his home -- and if he fails, where he will go.
"I don't know where I'm at," he said. "I'm still laying out here in limbo, not knowing what the story is."