By Stefanie Jackson – Linda Cleaveland wants to set the record straight about the Wellington Neck home she shares with husband John Cleaveland and about the controversy the property generated among neighbors after the couple applied for a special use permit to use the property overlooking Nassawadox Creek as a wedding destination.
At recent meetings of Northampton County supervisors and planning commissioners, neighbors made public comments that included speculation on why the Cleavelands were attempting to permit their property as an event venue while their house was on the market. The Cleavelands have remained largely silent throughout the debate and are now represented by an attorney.
Many believed the Cleavelands were trying to increase the value of their property to expedite a sale.
But Linda Cleaveland gave a different reason for putting the home on the market.
More than a year ago, the Cleavelands experienced a string of health issues that led them to believe they would no longer be able to maintain their 65-acre, Franktown-area property and they would have to move.
It all started when John Cleaveland developed back pain and an MRI revealed spinal compression and a herniated disc, said Linda Cleaveland, who is a retired registered nurse.
Surgery would have had a 50-50 chance of success to correct the issue, and John Cleaveland would have had to endure a one-year recovery without riding his tractor.
Considering the uncertainty of getting surgery, Cleaveland opted instead to get steroid injections every three months to manage his pain.
Cleaveland sustained another injury when he missed a step while dismounting a large tractor and fell on his right knee, tearing the cartilage.
The most devastating blow came one morning when he was coming downstairs and his wife noticed his speech was slurred. She took that as a warning sign of a stroke and got him to the hospital.
The episode affected a softball-sized area of his brain, yet John Cleaveland made a full recovery and suffers no cognitive deficits, Linda Cleaveland said.
During the same period, she sustained a shoulder injury that could have affected her ability to cut the grass on the 65-acre property, a three-day job.
“It was all about John,” she said of the decision to stay in the house he designed, both during and after his recovery.
The 65-acre property with a 1/4 mile of waterfront also features an airstrip and a barn that houses John Cleaveland’s tractors and personal aircraft.
He was an attack pilot during the Vietnam War, then he spent more than 30 years piloting international flights for TWA. He was also an electrical engineer.
Linda Cleaveland, originally from Richmond, Va., met John Cleaveland on Match.com, and they married in 2015.
If they had sold their Wellington Neck home, they might have moved to Richmond to live closer to Linda Cleaveland’s grown children.
The Cleavelands put their property up for sale last year, but they didn’t want to sell unless the right buyer was willing to pay their asking price of $2.5 million, later reduced to $2.4 million.
If they had also sold the tractors and plane they would have been “set for life,” Linda Cleaveland said.
The Cleavelands withdrew their house from the market the day after the June 12 Northampton planning commission meeting. Northampton supervisors will render a final decision on the Cleavelands’ zoning application at their next meeting July 9.