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$750,000 trust benefits Pa. town

December 04, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - Arthur Schmidt spent the last two decades of his 88 years in McConnellsburg so he could be near the final resting place of his beloved wife, Ruth.

The couple had planned to retire to McConnellsburg, Ruth's hometown, but she died in 1975 before they could do it. Her husband moved here alone in 1977. He died in 1997.

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Schmidt grew so fond of the community that he set up a $750,000 trust in his will to support community and local charitable projects, said Denver Kuhn, 53, Schmidt's close friend and neighbor on West Wood Street.

"He was a very fine man," Kuhn said.

Schmidt, who had no children, adopted Kuhn's family as his own, he said.

"We took care of him. We mowed his lawn and cleaned his house. We took care of everything," Kuhn said.

According to Kuhn, Schmidt was born in Long Island of German immigrant parents. He worked for 46 years for United Press International, the wire service, in New York, retiring in 1972 at age 64, Kuhn said.

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Schmidt, who was fluent in German, served as an Army interpreter in Europe during World War II with the 117th Infantry. His connection to Fulton County began in boot camp when he met Clarence Bender of McConnellsburg.

The two stayed in touch during the war. After it was over, Bender invited Schmidt to McConnellsburg to meet Ruth Kirk, a local schoolteacher and daughter of Wesley Kirk, Fulton County's district attorney.

They fell in love and were married in 1946. They moved to New Jersey and Schmidt returned to work at UPI.

"He was frugal, and he always made wise investments," Kuhn said. "He taught me how to invest my money."

Schmidt made money in the stock market and with other investments, Kuhn said.

The Schmidts moved to a retirement community in Toms River, N.J., and were planning to buy a home in McConnellsburg when Ruth died, Kuhn said. She was buried in Union Cemetery.

"He stayed in Toms River for about a year before he moved here. He wanted to be close to her grave," Kuhn said.

Schmidt named the four members of the committee who will determine how the money from the trust will be spent. They include Kuhn, Clyde Bookheimer, president of Fulton County National Bank and Schmidt's banker; Dr. Harry Johnston, his physician and James M. Schall, his attorney.

The appointments are for life. When committee members die or become incapacitated, their places will be filled by next of kin whenever possible. The surviving members will appoint the new committee members.

Schall said Fulton County National Bank is the trustee. The trust was funded in the spring and could, through continued investments, grow to $1 million.

The committee will distribute from $20,000 to $30,000 in interest every year to recipients chosen by the panel, Schall said. The plan is to fund one major project a year, "something that wouldn't otherwise get done," he said.

Only tax-exempt, nonprofit groups and recognized charities may apply for the money, he said.

Applications will be available at the bank after April 1 of each year. The committee will review the applications each September, select the recipient and release the money before the end of the year, Schall said.

The first beneficiary was the borough of McConnellsburg. The committee turned over nearly $30,000 so the borough could replace its downtown Christmas lights.

"Everybody knew that new lights were needed," Schall said.

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