GIFTS OF A LIFETIME: Local woman donates nearly $1.6 million to community

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HANCOCK COUNTY — Shortly after Patricia Pope died in May, her close friend and personal representative of her estate, Joy Wallace, found a large box of cards Pope had collected over the years.[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

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It didn’t seem like Pope — a Hancock County native and 1958 graduate of Charlottesville High School — had ever thrown away a birthday, Christmas, thank you or sympathy card for what seemed like decades, Wallace said. Several cards stuffed in the box thanked Pope for her “generous gifts” to people’s weddings, baby showers and graduations, as well as church, school and other community fundraisers.

“She made a lot of gifts to people that needed something,” Wallace said. “There was a generous side to her that was really touching.”

Pope’s spirit of giving will live on for years in Hancock County through a myriad of donations she left to her hometown community. Her estate bequeathed close to $3 million, and close to half was donated to schools and city departments in the county. Pope gave $500,000 gifts to Greenfield-Hancock County Animal Management, Greenfield-Central High School and Eastern Hancock High School. She also left $50,000 for the Greenfield Police Department and $25,000 for the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department.

While the gifts are large — and unprecedented in size to schools, officials say — Pope didn’t live a life of luxury, Wallace said; she was good at investing. Pope was also quirky and always sought a deal. Sometimes, Wallace said, her friend looked through the trash for odds and ends she could use. She did, however, splurge on products shown on the QVC and HSN television shopping networks, Wallace said.

“There were probably a lot of people that had no idea that she had the amount of money that she did,” Wallace said. “If you were to meet her, she would just look like an average (person). I always teased her that she always had the same blouse on.”

Pope also loved dogs, especially greyhounds. When one of her dogs died a few years ago, she wanted to rescue another greyhound. Wallace said some of her friends discouraged against it because she had pain from a bad leg and had trouble getting around — but she persisted and adopted a dog in fall 2017.

A month later, Pope had some health issues and went to the hospital for tests and surgeries. She thought she would return home again, but Pope was diagnosed with cancer and stayed under the care of nurses and doctors until she died on May 5, 2019. Wallace and she and her husband took care of Pope’s dog.

“She was a real straight shooter,” Wallace said about her friend of nearly 30 years. “She didn’t pull any punches with anybody. If she liked what you were doing, she was all praise about it, but if she thought you weren’t shooting straight, she told you that.”

Pope donated $250,000 to Greyhound Pets of America Indianapolis, and her donation to animal management is designated for the construction costs associated with a new building for the department.

Greenfield officials plan to construct a new animal control building on a piece of land on the west side of Franklin Street, just south of the Hancock County 911 Center near Tague Street. The city purchased the land from Covance for about $465,000, and they’re about to start design in early 2020, said Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell. He said the $500,000 will be spent on design and construction expenses for the building.

“A lady this gracious to help us, we certainly want to do it the right way for her,” Fewell said, adding that they’ll honor her wishes for the building and memorialize it in some way in her honor. “I’m telling you, that’s a great gift.”

Not only did Pope love animals, but she wanted students to succeed after high school. Pope’s parents divorced when she was in high school, Wallace said, so she wasn’t able to attend college. She later attended business school and worked at Eli Lilly as a receptionist for 28 years before retiring in 1989.

The two $500,000 donations to Greenfield-Central and Eastern Hancock will each be spent on annual scholarships for seniors attending accredited colleges. Wallace said Pope wanted to make sure students who want to attend college can afford it.

Dave Pfaff, superintendent of Eastern Hancock, said the corporation’s education foundation has never received this much money for scholarships. Adam Barton, principal of Eastern Hancock Middle/High School, said the school is planning for one senior each year to receive close to a $20,000 scholarship that can sustain them throughout all four years of college, dependent on grades. A few other students who apply for the scholarship but are chosen as runners-up will get $1,000 scholarships, Barton said.

“It’s going to be a nice price for a student going to college,” Barton added.

Jason Cary, principal of Greenfield-Central High School, said the corporation’s foundation, similar to Eastern Hancock’s, will invest the donation in an account that should sustain it and accrue interest.

“A gift of this size is amazing because this is generational for our kids,” Cary said. “This is something that we can continue to use for years and years for our students throughout the decades.”

One stipulation in accepting the scholarship donation was that Pope wanted a plaque hung in each high school that listed several of her family members, as well as her name, said David Chandler, an attorney in charge of Pope’s estate. Her name is second from the bottom on the plaques, he said, which she specifically requested.

Ginny Brown, executive director of the Greenfield Central School Foundation, said the $500,000 donation is the largest the foundation has ever received. Last year, Shirley Gibbs, a Walmart greeter of 25 years, left $275,000 for scholarships, Brown said. Gibbs also gave $250,000 to the Greenfield Police Department’s K-9 program.

Another large donation to the community in recent memory was from the estate of Dr. Ralph and Grace Rea, who left a $3.5 million gift to build the new Hancock County Public Library Sugar Creek Branch.

Another well-known benefactor was Martha Beckenholdt, who in 1993 created a $1 million trust through the Hancock County Community Foundation that still presents thousands of dollars in scholarships every year.

Chief Jeff Rasche of the Greenfield Police Department said the $50,000 donation from Pope will be split between the department’s annual Cops-4-Kids event and the K-9 program. The Cops-4-Kids gift specified that it will be spent in $1,000 installments over the next 25 years. Rasche said the K9 donation will help pay for a new police K9 animal and other costs associated. A K-9 typically costs about $15,000 or more, he said.

Pope also left gifts for nurses, health aides, her pastor, close family friends and the hospitals she stayed in over the past few years. Chandler said he’s worked with many people on their wills, but Pope’s gifts to the community stands tall in his mind.

“She’s the most generous person I’ve ever come across,” he said.

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