Oscar Geckler’s will sets out the donation, as well as the conditions attached to it
TOWNSHIP – Oscar Geckler’s gift to the St. Luke Lutheran community was well worth the 34-year wait.
A farmer and devout Lutheran, he spent his last days in the North Canton nursing home until his death in 1987.
Geckler’s 27-page long will had set aside what amounts to a million dollar donation that will finally be available today for St. Luke.
“We are fortunate to have a strong donor base,” said John Spieler, President and CEO of St. Luke.
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Still, Spieler admitted that the circumstances surrounding Geckler’s gift are a bit unusual. After all, Geckler died when Ronald Reagan was president and Joe Biden was a young senator from Delaware.
Oscar Geckler, financial genius
Geckler and his wife, Bernadine, lived on a farm at the northeast corner of Highway 62 and Broadway Avenue NE, in Nimishillen Township. Those who knew him said that Oscar was a bit stubborn. His farm, often littered with broken down tractors, gave little indication of the wealth he had amassed.
Of course, the Gecklers had helped fund a few projects at their church – Holy Trinity Lutheran in Plain Township. But most didn’t realize that the man who raised sheep and pigs, milked cows, and demanded mashed potatoes with his supper every night, had also studied the Wall Street Journal every day. .
Oscar has invested wisely.
He was worth $ 2 million when he died at the age of 92.
The Gecklers did not have children, although he had two from a previous marriage. Thus, he had meticulously planned his estate – creating four separate trusts – to ensure that his wife and other members of his immediate family would be financially secure after his death.
The money from one of these trusts, now held at the Huntington National Bank, was to be used to care for the graves in North Lawn Cemetery of Oscar and Bernadine, as well as seven other family members.
Emily Smith, spokesperson for Huntington, said she could not comment due to privacy and confidentiality concerns.
Long strings attached to the Geckler
In his will, Oscar wrote that the maintenance of the graves was to continue for exactly 19 years and 1 day after the death of the last member of the Geckler family. It was Bernadine, who died on October 3, 2002.
This time clause expires today.
Spieler said the money will help support St. Luke’s retirement communities, who, like others, have struggled with the financial repercussions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
St. Luke operates facilities in North Canton, Minerva and the Portage Lakes region, ranging from independent living to skilled nursing. Most of the money, Spieler said, will be spent in North Canton, where Geckler lived.
Before Spieler joined St. Luke, a previous administration had tried to speed up Geckler’s donation, to no avail.
In 2004, a lawyer from St. Luke went to Stark County Estates Court in an attempt to reform the Geckler Trust, as the large sum of money was far more than needed to deal with the graves.
St. Luke had asked Judge Dixie Park if he could withdraw $ 750,000 from the Unizan Bank trust (which was later bought by Huntington) and leave the rest untouched for the graves. The funds, the lawyer argued, would still be used in a way that meets Oscar’s last wishes.
Park rejected this request.
“Pure economic opportunity is simply not a basis for reforming or accelerating the distribution of trust assets…” she wrote in her ruling. “Such an order would also violate the clear direction and expressed intention of Oscar Geckler as he carefully set out in his will.”
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