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Late Wadena woman gives entire estate to local groups

Representatives from the city of Wadena, Wadena-Deer Creek public schools, the Wadena County Historical Society, Wadena First Congregational United Church of Christ, the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center fundraising committee and the Friends of the Wadena City Library group accepted checks from the estate of Betty Stark. Stark died last year and gave all of her money to the community organizations.

Betty Stark may be gone, but her legacy lives on.

When the Wadena woman died last year at 84 years old, she left her entire estate to seven area organizations.

Wadena's First Congregational United Church of Christ, the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center, the Wadena County Historical Society and Courage North (a camp in Hubbard County for people with disabilities) each received 10 percent. Stark bequeathed 20 percent each to Wadena-Deer Creek Public Schools for an annual scholarship, to the city of Wadena for upkeep of Sunnybrook Park and to the Friends of the Wadena City Library.

Last year, the first four groups each got $18,500 from the sale of her cabin. The remaining 60 percent went into a permanent endowed fund, and the interest will be distributed annually to the other three groups.

With Stark's affairs now settled, Sam Phillips, her designated personal representative, handed out checks to six organizations (Courage North representatives didn't attend) last Wednesday at Wadena-Deer Creek middle/high school. The 10 percent beneficiaries received their final payment of $13,500, while the 20 percent recipients yielded a lump sum of $27,000. Those three groups will continue to get an estimated $1,600 to $1,700 each year from the endowment, Phillips said.

As designated in Stark's will, next school year WDC will begin giving out an $2,000 annual scholarship to a college-bound senior with a B average who is involved with school and other community activities.

"She's given a wonderful gift to countless future Wadena-Deer Creek graduates," said Superintendent Lee Westrum. "We are thankful and we are very grateful."

The Friends of the Library Board hasn't decided how it's going to use the donation.

"It's going to be a group decision," said Karen Wallgren, vice president of the organization.

One option, she said, is to use the lump sum to pay for a feasibility study that's required before the library can add an addition to alleviate crowded conditions.

The Wadena County Historical Society will use the funds to increase community outreach and improve educational programming, said John Crandall, society president.

"(Stark) was very generous to us," he said. "It was really a surprise and really a welcome gift."

Born Betty Gene Wheeler, Stark graduated from Wadena High School in 1946. She married Richard "Bumps" Stark in 1972 and became widowed in 1983. Working for nearly 48 years at Krause Drug in Wadena, she kept the books, manned the sales floor and became a self-taught pharmacy technician.

Through frugal living, she amassed a healthy estate and left it in the hands of Phillips, a former Krause Drug pharmacist and family friend.

"She was something else," Phillips said with a smile. "She was a wonderful lady. I've always felt honored that she asked me."