Charlotte Army widow gets free house

The Charlotte widow of an Army veteran who served in World War II was surprised Tuesday with a mortgage-free home from the Nehemiah Community Reinvestment Fund, in partnership with Bank of America.

Patricia Shines, 64, and her granddaughter, Alysha Zephir, 23, believed they were purchasing the home as part of a veteran’s homebuying program. News that her mortgage was already paid came as she was being handed the keys. Her reaction was a mix of surprise and tears.

Shines is the widow of Joe Cephus Shines, who served from 1942 to 1946 and saw combat as a member of the 1695th Engineer Combat Battalion of the U.S. Army.

Their son, Leano Zephir, served in the Navy during Desert Storm and was killed with his wife, Angela, in a 1991 car accident. He was 21 at the time. Shines raised Leano’s two children, who were 2 months old and 14 months old at the time of his death.

Nehemiah Community Reinvestment Fund is a nonprofit affordable housing agency that has partnered with Bank of America to serve the immediate and long-term housing needs of military families. Shines’ new home was recently renovated and came with new appliances and furniture.