The Real-Life Story That Inspired "Up" Is Even More Heart-Wrenching Than The Movie

A tale of determination, friendship, and knowing what matters. Cue all the feels.

1. Before Carl and Russell took their adventures into the wilds of Venezuela, the iconic cottage house in Disney and Pixar’s Up was still on the ground, in the midst of encroaching high-rise construction.

3. In Seattle, the story of this house had a very similar plot.

Nich Hance McElroy / nhmcelroy.tumblr.com / Via amusingplanet.com

4. Meet Edith Macefield.

Stuart Isett / Polaris

Her 108-year-old farmhouse in the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard was in the middle of an area undergoing lots of commercial development. Before moving to this little house in Washington state, Edith had an interesting life. Born in Oregon in 1921, Edith lied about her age in order to join the service and support the war effort in England. Even when others discovered that she wasn’t 18, Edith stayed overseas to care for orphans until her mother became ill and she returned to the States. Her only child, a son, died of meningitis at 13.

Stuart Isett / Polaris

5. Edith’s goal was to stay in her own home as long as possible.

“My mother died here,” she said, “on this very couch. I came back to America from England to take care of her. She made me promise I would let her die at home and not in some facility, and I kept that promise. And this is where I want to die. Right in my own home. On this couch.”

6. In 2006 she was offered $1,000,000 for her property. She turned it down.

Her refusal to sell made her a local folk hero and brought her national attention. “I don’t want to move. I don’t need the money. Money doesn’t mean anything,” Macefield told the Seattle P-I.

7. When construction of the neighboring high-rise brought cranes over her house, she turned up the television.

“I went through World War II,” she said. “The noise doesn’t bother me. They’ll get it done someday.”

8. Enter Barry Martin, construction chief of the project around Edith’s house.

Stuart Isett / Polaris

After working close by and hearing of her story, the two struck up a friendship.

9. When Edith became increasingly ill with pancreatic cancer, it was Barry who took care of her.

Stuart Isett / Polaris

For two years he drove her to appointments, nursed her, cleaned her, fed her, and listened to her stories about escaping from Nazis and being a spy for the Allies.

10. Edith died in 2008, at the age of 86, in her house just like she wanted. And she left her little house to Barry.

[Insert feels here.]

11. Inspired by their friendship and the experience, Barry wrote a book about everything he had learned from Edith.

Buy it here.

12. In addition to being the suspected inspiration for Up, Edith’s legacy has reached far and wide.

The first annual Macefield Music Festival was held in 2013, dedicated to preserving Edith’s fiercely independent spirit. A local tattoo artist created a design in honor of Edith and her house and the importance of “holding on to things that are important to you.”

In 2008, the house was sold for $310,000. The structure will be slightly expanded, but left largely intact and used for real estate training and as a community center.

14. As much as she loved her home, at the end of her life, Edith was realistic about the realities of change and the long-term future of the space.

Stuart Isett / Polaris

“She said that it didn’t really matter,” Martin told NPR, “because 20 years from now, she said, this building that they’re building around me, they’re going to tear it down and build a new one.”

15. Thanks, Edith.

Learn more about Edith and her story here, here, here, and here. Martin’s book is available here.

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