“I’ll hold your mail while you turn the wheel,” I said. Leonard and his wife, Marge, were new to our retirement community. Soft spoken, yet with a piercing gaze, I had trouble discovering if he was upset or if that was just the way he would look at you. Turns out that he had reason to be upset, but life didn’t unsettle him. A chemical engineer by trade, Leonard and Marge traveled the west extensively looking for artifacts and minerals in the Dakotas, Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona. Ending over 35 years at a major supplier of energy, they moved to Ohio to be close to their children and to find a good place for Marge who was struggling with Alzheimer’s.
My first visit with him began with an invitation to see his collection. There, spanning the entire wall of his apartment, were literally hundreds of artifacts – Native American arrowheads, spear points and a precisely categorized array of a multitude of minerals. “Go ahead, open one of those drawers,” he said in a distinctively Oklahoman accent. I pulled out something that looked like a unicorn horn. “Is this from a unicorn?” I joked, looking at the conical shape. “No, but it’s old,” he said smiling.
After a few months, Leonard moved to an assisted living room to be closer to his dear wife. They would be seen holding hands on the way to watch a movie together. I would smile, stop and have a conversation about kids and their travels. I had met their daughters as well — caring siblings who only wanted the best for their parents. We talked about a possible university or museum that might want his extensive collection once they are gone.
I was surprised when one day Leonard came into my office carrying a manila folder. A large legal document could be seen. “My daughters and I have been talking,” he said, showing me the document. “We drew this up years ago with our attorney back in the 80’s,” revealing a charitable remainder unitrust. “You will see on page four,” he said with a keen gaze, “that we have named eight beneficiaries to receive what remains when we are gone. We were wondering if you might want it all as a way to say ‘thanks!?’” And so, through a number of meetings with their attorney and conversations with their daughters, Leonard and Marge named our charity as the sole beneficiary of their six figure unitrust!
It started by me offering assistance to him and, now through their generosity, they have offered assistance to us! Some simple lessons remain – show a genuine interest in the lives of those you are working with, be sincere and ask good questions, have a strong knowledge of planned giving vehicles and say “thank you” a lot!