A house can become part of you. This is especially true when you have grown up with it and watched the times of your life, and your family members’ lives, come and go in it.

That’s the story of the house that sits at 6535 Gaston. Built by the Greiners in 1924, the house was passed down through the family until March 2001, when Ron and Myrna Vance bought it from 89-year-old Bill Greiner, son of the original owner.

Even now, if you close your eyes, you can imagine the house as it was in the early days. The cotton fields not far in the distance, which Greiner remembers seeing from the back porch of the house. And Lakewood Avenue, back when it was a mud road that Greiner rode his bike up and down as a boy.

However, these days the fields are neighborhood streets, and the 4,000-square foot house has undergone a facelift, to the tune of half a million dollars. The Vances knew when they bought it that the house would need updates — after all, it was still running on a coal boiler system. But they also wanted to maintain its integrity.

Luckily, they had expert help in the process. Greiner stuck around to make suggestions during the restoration.

“We wanted to do it right,” Myrna Vance says. “It really meant a lot to Mr. Greiner, too.”

Though a family member had always occupied the house, Greiner himself had been gone from 1935 until he took ownership in 1983 after his sister died. When he finally put it up for sale, it was perfect timing for the Vances, who had been living in Plano for many years and decided they wanted to move to Lakewood.

“We started looking around, and we met a young Realtor couple who started showing us houses. One day, they called and they said this house had just gone on the market and it has great drive-up appeal, but it needs a little work.”

After taking a look around, the couple spent two hours with Greiner, talking to him about the house. Greiner had other offers, but he decided he wanted Ron and Myrna to have his childhood home.

“I liked them, and I thought when you sell a house that has been in your family for a long time, you don’t sell it and forget. You want somebody who will come in there who will do some sort of respectful act to the house like they did,” Greiner says.

Closing in early 2001, the Vances hired an architect to do repair work and make additions.

“The architect started pointing out all the architectural details of the house, and it was really a neat house and nobody had screwed it up yet, so he said, ‘Don’t you dare,’” Myrna remembers.

The couple was finally able to move into the house in November 2002 after all the renovation and redecoration was complete.

“We didn’t get rid of much,” Myrna says.

Upstairs, besides opening up the back and extending it out, they closed off one of the bathrooms to make it separate for the third bedroom. They also worked to keep the original fixtures, and in one case, after tearing down the original garage because it was too close to the house, they found an old claw foot tub in the original servants’ quarters. After re-porcelaining and re-brassing it, the tub now sits in the master bath.

“Just about all the fixtures that were in the house are still being used — they are probably not in the original spot, but we wanted to keep as many of the fixtures as possible,” Myrna says. “For example, we took the light that was in the dining room, and we brassed it and did some wiring and it is now in the entry hall.”

They even left some things be that Greiner suggested they change, such as enclosing the upstairs balcony.

“We said, no, we didn’t think we wanted to do that,” Myrna says. “He was just real sweet, though, and he seemed to really like what we did in basically just trying to do repair work.”

After they moved in, the Vances extended an open invitation to Greiner to come by whenever he wished. He took them up on it, and still visits his childhood home and its new occupants regularly. When he comes by, Greiner tells the Vances about the good old days of living there. One of his favorite memories took place on summer Saturdays.

“My father loved to garden, and in the back of the house where the old garage used to be, he had a beautiful garden.”

The garden is now long gone, but Greiner remembers radishes and onions and cucumbers and four or five rows of corn, which his father planted one week apart so the family could have corn until October every year. It was through working in the garden with his father that Greiner says he will “remember forever that his father was a decent man, even having a school named after him in South Dallas.”

Another memory that stands out to Greiner is watching workers pick cotton in the field.

“We had a maid, and every summer during cotton picking time, she would quit and go out cotton picking. I asked her why she did, and she said it was so much fun. I asked her what happens out there, and she said, ‘We sing, and we eat food and dance at night,’ and after picking cotton all day, I don’t see how they did all that. You could hear them singing from the house.”

The back porch where he listened to the songs was attached to Greiner’s bedroom, which was his favorite room in the house.

“It didn’t take me long to figure out how to skinny down that porch,” he says. “I would skinny down there, and a bunch of us had bicycles and flashlights, and we would get out and roam the neighborhood on bicycles. That was interesting.”

Ron remembers Greiner telling him that story, only he adds that Greiner says he used to sneak out the window to go fishing with Davey O’Brien, the Heisman Trophy winner from Woodrow.

While Greiner can pick a favorite room, the Vances love the entire house.

“I got to watch them all evolve, so I don’t have a particular favorite,” Ron says. “The old living room is unique, and the dining room is a good size, and the den works real well for us.”

Myrna says she’s partial to the master bedroom, since it was added on and is decorated in the colors she loves: red and gold. She also loves the fireplaces they added in the family room and master bedroom.

Keeping the additions and touch-ups to a minimum allowed the Vances to breathe new life into the house without forfeiting its former life. Greiner says he’s glad he trusted his instincts.