Image: Photo of Pallmeyer
Tony Gutierrez  /  AP file
A photo of Wynonia Pallmeyer is on display in the Grandview Nursing Home in Grandview, Texas.
updated 1/24/2007 7:32:04 PM ET 2007-01-25T00:32:04

Wynonia Pallmeyer never lived in Grandview. But once a month for more than a decade, she drove 35 miles from her home in Fort Worth to this small town she'd grown to love.

Few here knew the unassuming and sometimes tenacious silver-haired woman, other than those from the nursing home where her husband Edward lived the last years of his life.

Now Pallmeyer has left a lasting mark on the town, leaving it nearly $4 million, almost a third of her $14 million estate.

"I'm not surprised by her generosity — just that she had that much money," said Martha Bennett, a Grandview Bank vice president who served with Pallmeyer on the nursing home board. "You just don't run into people like that."

Pallmeyer's relationship with Grandview, a town of about 1,400, began with daily visits in the mid-1980s after her husband became ill and needed long-term care. Someone referred her to the Grandview Nursing Home, a not-for-profit facility ranked among the best nursing homes in Texas.

She was so pleased with the home that she joined its board and continued serving at monthly meetings long after her husband's death. When the facility needed something — an ice cream machine, a whirlpool, a van, money for a chapel — Pallmeyer provided it, said administrator Barbara LeBaron.

Although she wore diamond jewelry and drove a Mercedes, Pallmeyer never flaunted her money, friends said. She lived in a modest, 2,000-square-foot house built in 1959 and valued at $150,500.

Pallmeyer, who died at 86 in June 2005, apparently didn't know the total value of her estate — amassed over decades with her husband by buying real estate and mineral rights holdings. Friends said she had a keen business sense.

Three friends made decision
So Pallmeyer, who had no children or other relatives, requested in her will that three of her friends form a committee to decide how her riches would be distributed after her death.

"For some odd reason she didn't want to make those choices herself," said the Rev. Donnie Voss, a senior associate pastor at Fort Worth's Travis Avenue Baptist Church, where Pallmeyer attended for decades. "But she was clear in her intent that the money would go to charitable causes."

Committee member Rudolph McDuff, a former Grandview mayor who knew Pallmeyer for 25 years, said she was "a nice lady who knew what she wanted to do and didn't listen to nobody."

She never discussed leaving her money to the town but said she wanted the nursing home taken care of, McDuff said. So all of McDuff's recommendations — several agencies and churches — involved Grandview.

The nursing home will receive about $2 million. LeBaron said she had no idea how much it would receive until she and a co-worker opened a nearly $1 million check last fall, after the will was finalized. The rest of the money will arrive later.

"We had to look at it," LeBaron said with a laugh. "To think what an effect it could have for us and that somebody could be that generous."

The nursing home had already taken out a nearly $1.5 million federal government loan to build a therapy wing, beauty salon and break room. Now officials expect to be able to repay the loan sooner, LeBaron said.

The Grandview Youth Association, which has received about half of its $200,000, has already built a peewee football field. It plans to build baseball and soccer fields, as well as a pavilion to be named after Pallmeyer, said association board member Janet Smith.

The Grandview community center, shuttered for more than a year, plans to use its $600,000 for much-needed renovations, and the town's library will use its $200,000 for an expansion.

"Knowing her the way I did, I knew she'd be satisfied with giving it to different groups instead of one person or organization," McDuff said.

Homeless shelter, too
Among the other beneficiaries are several universities across North Texas and a homeless shelter and a charitable foundation in Fort Worth. The other two committee members were a minister at Pallmeyer's church and one of her neighbors in Fort Worth.

Community leaders say Pallmeyer's legacy and what her gift will mean for Grandview — which has an annual budget of nearly $1.4 million — can't be underestimated.

"It's hard to describe in words how you feel," said Robert Stewart, president and CEO of Grandview Bank. "In Grandview we have a very small business community, and obviously they struggle for funding. These gifts are going to go a long way toward taking care of the needs these organizations have."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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