Late Iowa farmer hid generosity throughout life, priest says

Des Moines, Iowa, Feb 18, 2014 / 04:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Edwin “Bud” Skalla, who died last November, was a bachelor farmer whose magnanimity was made known only after he passed away, according to the man’s pastor.

“I don’t think people realized that he had as generous a heart as he did, because he hid it very well from everyone until after his death,” Fr. John Dorton, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Portsmouth, Iowa, told CNA Feb. 14.

“And then when his will became public, his generosity towards 13 churches sprinkled throughout southwest Iowa became very apparent.”

At his death, Skalla left 282 acres of farmland to St. Mary’s, his home parish, and another 858 acres to 13 parishes located in Iowa’s Harrison and Shelby counties. Those 858 acres were auctioned off Feb. 15 for $7.9 million.

In addition to the bequeathal of land, Skalla’s cash assets of some $2.5 million will be distributed among the parishes.

Skalla was born in 1921 on his family farm outside Portsmouth, where he spent all but the last 13 years of his life. He had moved in 2001 into a retirement community in Harlan, about 10 miles away.

“Bud was a very frugal man, a bachelor farmer … he wasn’t a real outgoing or terrifically generous person to other people during his lifetime,” according to Fr. Dorton, who also said he “wasn’t real communicative” and “was almost a hermit,” but who “had a deep love for the land.”

Skalla’s frugality can be attributed to his having grown up during the Depression, the priest continued. Shrewd investments and saving his money allowed him to accumulate the wealth he did.

“It made him appreciate money and success in a material way; I think he felt the poverty he grew up in had been overcome and defeated and that he was a successful person, and I think he took great pride in that.”

His obituary at Paul Jones Funeral Homes noted that while he never married, Skalla “was extremely dedicated to his family, especially his mother. He always saw to it that she was well taken care of until her death in 1984.”

Of the 13 parishes benefited by Skalla’s will, one, St. Rose of Lima in Denison, is in the Sioux City diocese; the remainder are in the Diocese of Des Moines.

“Bud was engaged in the most noble of professions, farming,” Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines wrote of Skalla. “Through his dedicated work, he provided nourishment for the human body which fortified countless thousands. Now, in death, through his legacy, he will enrich the human spirit through faith and spiritual development.”

He continued, saying that “the Catholic communities of Shelby and Harrison Counties as well as the Diocese of Des Moines are enormously grateful to Edwin ‘Bud’ Skalla for his extraordinarily generous remembrance of the parishes in his will.”

Fr. Dorton, who is pastor of several of the parishes provided for by Skalla, said they “haven’t got to the point yet of (discussing) how we’re going to be using the money that comes to us,” and added that “those decisions will be made by the pastoral and financial councils of the parishes involved, in consultation with the pastor.”

“I myself would hope for a blend of investing to ensure some financial stability, some capital improvements to the parishes, and some kind of program that would benefit the people, improve the quality of their lives – and I mean that in both a material and spiritual way. So I would hope for that kind of a blend, as we move into the future.”

Skalla died Nov. 26, 2013, and his funeral Mass was said at St. Mary’s Nov. 30, by Fr. Dorton and Fr. Michael Berner. He was buried at the parish cemetery.

He is survived by his sisters Sylvia Kepford and Roseann Brummer, and his sister-in-law Vi Skalla.

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