A Hendersonville man few can recall recently donated a chunk of his $1.8 million estate to several local and national organizations more than a year following his death.
The city was contacted about a year ago and notified that its fire department and Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association were named in the estate of Jack Harrell, and that each would receive a check for $18,000, according to City Attorney John Bradley.
Those checks were delivered in mid-December - as well as an $18,000 check to the Hendersonville Homebound Meals Program.
Bradley said he didn't recall a donation like this one in the 30 years he has been with the city.
"It is unusual," he said. "This is the first time I remember someone including the city in their estate planning. It is unusual but much appreciated."
What makes the gifts even more interesting is the fact that no one seems to know who Mr. Harrell was, Bradley noted.
City records show that a man named Jack Harrell spoke during the citizens' comments portion of a Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting in 1987 regarding the city's garbage fee, he said.
Other than that, no one at City Hall seems to recall him or know why he would leave money to the city.
Attorney Russ Edwards said Mr. Harrell asked him to draw up his will and execute his estate. The two met three or four times, Edwards recalled.
"He just wanted to give a lot to charity and he loved the city," he said. "He wanted to give back to his community."
According to Edwards, Mr. Harrell was born in Los Angeles, Calif., and lived in the New York/Pennsylvania area for a while before moving to McMinnville, Tenn. Edwards estimates he moved to Hendersonville "probably around 1980."
He worked for General Electric as a space and aviation engineer and retired from there, Edwards added, although it's not clear in what year.
A widower with no children, Mr. Harrell died at a Hendersonville nursing home in September 2015 at the age of 95.
He also left $180,600 to St. Jude's Children's Hospital and $162,300 to the Wounded Warrior Project. Edwards said that two estranged sisters were also named in his will. Each is to receive $271,000 - once Edwards can find them.
Edwards said it took so long to distribute the checks because the bulk of the man's estate was in savings bonds that dated back 20 to 30 years.
Hendersonville Home Bound Meals Program site manager Richard Dennis says his organization has received donations from estates in the past, but nothing of this magnitude.
"This is highly unusual for us," said Dennis who has managed the site for five or six years.
The non-profit organization delivers 2,000-2,500 meals each month to the elderly and shut-ins with a monthly food bill of between $10,000-$11,000, he added.
"This [donation] means a lot," Dennis added. "We have record high numbers of people needing meals with people on a waiting list at this point. The need has become more than I've seen since I've been here. This is going to help take some of those people off of that list."
Hendersonville Fire Chief Scotty Bush says he doesn't know why the fire department was named in the estate, but is grateful for the donation. He plans to put the money towards replacing a 15-20-year-old washing machine for the department's turn-out gear as well as some older equipment.
"It's the first time I can remember anybody giving something like this," said Bush.
Bush said he plans to recognize Mr. Harrell in some way - perhaps dedicate an office in the department's renovated headquarters.
"For someone we don't even know to give us this kind of money, it's a big deal," added Bush.