IA: Farmer leaves fortune to churches

Des Moines-Ames (CNN) – Two tombstones north of his brother Short, there’s fresh dirt on Bud Skalla’s grave.

Residents confess that the 92 year old, never-married farmer was not a people person.

The quirky kind of guy who’d climb on his barn and paint B-U-D.

It had nothing to do with Budweiser, Bud was advertising himself.

He was kind of a loner.

So there were plenty of open pews minutes before Bud’s funeral when his executor pulled Father John aside.

“And he said you’re going to be on the receiving end of a very large bequest,” Father Dorton remembers.

A tease that would make even a monk wonder.

“From wow and the elation then you have to be a little more calm for the celebration of the funeral,” Father Dorton said.

Faithful parishioners will often leave a thousand dollars to their church. But Raymond had said big. How big is big?

A few days later, he got a definition. 292 acres of prime farmland worth close to 3-million dollars left to his parish.

“I’ve been a priest 42 years and I’ve never seen one like this,” Father Dorton said.

But Bud was just getting started. 5 miles up the road, a total surprise.

St. Mary’s in Panama got farm land, too. Over in Earling, St. Joseph’s got more. Down in Westphalia, St. Bonaface’s surprise arrived about the same time as St. Peter’s in Defiance did.

Break out a calculator?

You’re talking about a bequest in the neighborhood of 10-million dollars.

Left to churches in 13 different towns.

Each church could be looking at $500,000.

Four times some of their annual budgets in one gift. After all the land’s sold at auction Saturday, some parishes will set up endowments, others will invest in missions and more will hire construction crews to update their buildings

Everybody’s going to benefit in the whole town whether they are a member of the parish or not.

In life, Bud Skalla had a reputation. In death, he earned a new one while teaching a lesson.

It’s a side to him he never showed in real life.

Red paint’s not the only way to leave a mark on your community.

That’s just the way Bud was made.

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