The House That Bill Built

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Nine years after the fact, David Bigoney has no regrets about traveling home that Christmas. The wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time adage doesn't fit, he says.

"I was exactly where I needed to be — next to my father. That was my place. It's unfortunate that I lost my sight, but if I'd died, at least I'd have died with my father knowing I stood by him."

Dr. Klass theorizes that Margaret transferred angry childhood feelings over to Bill. "When you have a spouse who's 35 years older," he remarks, "that's a much, much more likely scenario." Announcing the divorce probably precipitated her unraveling, he says; coupled with the perceived threat from the "united front" of David and Bill, it was like "mixing the two together [to produce] the gasoline and the match."

In hindsight, "I would say she was an indulged child with a child's appetites and rages, plus she wanted the easy pleasure of an unconcerned childhood. And if anything didn't go her way — pow."

A crime scene photo from the master bathroom shows a wastebasket filled to the top with empty pill bottles. Only one was prescribed by Klass — Prozac. According to police reports, family practitioner Dr. Irving Bratt had written her prescriptions for Paxil, Doxcycline, Ultram, Cyclobenzaprin, Atenolol, Meclizine, Adipex-P, Pondimin, Alprazolam, Verelan, and Synthroid, to address a variety of medical complaints, including PMS and back pain.

Also found, police say, were letters from Margaret and other family members alluding to past incidents of "physical and emotional abuse" involving Bill.

David doesn't deny that his father could be controlling at times. "He wasn't the easiest man to live with in the world — at all. I tried to live with him, and it didn't work out. We'd just butt heads. He wanted things his way, and there was no room for compromise."

Klass, who remembers Bill Bigoney as "highly regarded, a lovely man, and a very nice person," found his relationship with Margaret perplexing. "I'll tell you the big puzzle for me," he says. "Why did he marry her?"

Unaware until now of David Bigoney's achievements, Klass sounds thrilled to hear about his journey out of the abyss. "That makes my day," he says. "It tells you a lot about his genetics."

Though he began taking classes in 1995, David didn't graduate until last August. He holds a Florida State University degree in information technology, and his focus is on Americans With Disabilities Act compliance for web pages. Part of the work he does now involves testing software that helps blind individuals to decipher text on even the most graphics-laden websites.

Naugle sees David's accomplishments as a natural extension of his childhood in Sailboat Bend. "I attribute it to his scouting background. He'd make a great motivational speaker."

Don Wilkin leans back in his chair and marvels at the outcome of a story that had veered into some dark and treacherous terrain. David's casual, sure-footed mastery of his life is beyond inspirational, he says. "I would never have been able to do what he's done," Wilkin believes. "I close my eyes and wonder how. But I know this much — his father would have done the same damned thing, for sure."

In 1999, South African advertising guru Kim Nothard was looking for a place in Fort Lauderdale where he and his wife, architect Margi Glavovic Nothard, could raise a family. He found the Bill Bigoney house for sale and e-mailed a picture to Margi. It looked rundown, with coats of dingy gray paint inside, but the sight of its sharp lines lurking in the jungle intrigued her. The real-estate agent making the sale was Jim Naugle, who wrestled with whether to disclose to buyers what had happened.

"We determined there was no duty, but in a practical sense, you could have a deal fall apart if you didn't," Naugle says. "So I got permission to disclose."

Margi — an urban and regional planning professor at FAU with a master's from the Southern California Institute of Architecture — wouldn't have cared if the home had been a slaughterhouse. Its uniqueness transcended all other considerations. "We don't even think about it," she says in a pristinely cultured accent. "It's a privilege to live in his house in keeping with his vision. It is my sanctuary."

So formidable was his talent and originality, Bill Bigoney's works are accorded the same dignity and respect as any other significant regional architect in South Florida — which is to say, very little. It takes a certain type of person to appreciate a Bigoney home, like the Nothards, who love it, leaky skylights and all. "It's a commitment," she says. To not honor his work is unthinkable to her. But it happens all the time.

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton