Back in October, Leonard resident Henry Allen Spies Jr., died at the age of 93. This week, a handful of nonprofits in Fannin County began receiving the fruits of his and his family’s labor.
In total, Spies’ estate is expected to continue to disburse around $3.6 million this week to nonprofits in the county. Some of the entities picked up their actual checks last week.
The entities in Fannin County that are expected to receive checks this week include the Fannin County Children’s Center, Fannin County Family Crisis Center and First Methodist Church of Leonard. Then there are also three entities outside of Fannin County which will each receive $600,000 and those include the Methodist Children’s Home in Waco, Fayette Medical Center Foundation in Fayette, Alabama and Fayette Medical Center Nursing Home, also in Fayette.
“He left the balance of his estate to those six after he made specific bequests to several people and entities,” Bonham Attorney Sharon Johnson said. She said they haven’t made all of the distributions yet so they don’t know what will be left over after all of the bequests are made. She also said the six entities can expect a final distribution at some point that will be sizeable but not anything like the $600,000 they are getting this week.
The obituary that ran in the Herald Democrat said Henry Spies Jr. was born in Bonham on July 19, 1925 to Henry Allen Spies and Dillie Broyles Spies. He graduated from high school in Ladonia before going to East Texas State University in Commerce, now called Texas A&M at Commerce. From there he served in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946 as a Median Tech 409 on the U.S. Army Hospital Ship, Ernestine Karanda, for six tours of duty. When he left the Army, he worked in Birmingham Alabama for his uncle, Dr. Tom Spies, while studying at the Alabama School of Medicine. He received his Master’s Degree in Biochemistry and his degree in dentistry from the School of Dentistry at Temple University in Philadelphia. He was also accepted as a fellow in the Royal Society of Health in London. He joined the dental staff at the Marlin, Texas VA Hospital in 1961. Three years later, he transferred to the VA hospital in Dallas and served there for 34 years as assistant chief of dental services and 23 years as a part-time professor at Baylor Dental School.
Henry Spies Jr. never married and had no children.
Johnson said the estate that her office helped Spies give away wasn’t all his earning. She explained that his parents, Henry Allen Spies and Dillie Broyles Spies, had amassed an estate and divided it among their children. That estate then passed to Henry Allen Spies Jr. and he combined it with his own when he set about getting his affairs in order. Johnson said she met Spies Jr. back in the spring of 2015 when he came into her office to get her to write up his will.
“He knew exactly what he wanted to do,” Johnson said after saying that an estate that size isn’t something an attorney in estate planning sees everyday.
Johnson said Spies Jr. had given money to the nonprofits that he listed previous to his death.
“Dr. Spies has been a generous supporter of ours for many years,” said Fannin County Children’s Center Executive Director Sandy Barber last week.
“We are absolutely thrilled to get such a generous gift! Our board and staff have already been talking about how this amazing gift will be a wonderful start to our upcoming capital campaign for a new, larger facility,” Barber said.
The center, Barber said, has outgrown its present location and the staff and board have been dreaming and working on finding several acres of land that would accommodate not only their larger facility, but will have space for some of the center’s partners from CPS, law enforcement, prosecution and medical.
“We are also dreaming of green space so our kids and families, as well as our team of professionals and volunteers have outdoor space for stress relief and healing,” she said. “This gift will be a legacy that will help the most vulnerable kids of our community for years to come!”
Fannin County Family Crisis Center Executive Director Carol Pillars said she first met Spies Jr. about ten years ago and that he had given the center money for various things including the donation that helped them purchase their current facility.
She said when she got a copy of Spies Jr.’s will, she thought,”He did remember us.” Pillars also said they were first told they should expect to receive around $400,000, which was a lot more than they could have ever expected. When she went to pick up the actual check, she found it out it was actually $600,000.
While some of the money will be used for specific projects, Pillars said most of it will be put in the bank to allow the agency to use its earnings to meet future goals.
First United Methodist Church of Leonard Pastor Joe Gist said Spies Jr. was a member of the church for decades, and the endowment that Spies Jr. has left the church will be a benefit to the church’s youth for years to come.
Before his death, Johnson said, Spies Jr., left his farm and house to the church and retained only a life estate in it. In addition to helping young people pay for college, Spies Jr.’s bequest to the church will help members pay to maintain its prayer garden and to provide scholarships to the Walk to Emmaus.
Johnson said the bequests are the size that will likely impact the nonprofits for years to come.
She added that Henry Allen Spies Jr., didn’t want anyone to know about the money he gave away when he was alive, but they felt that the community should know about these bequests because they are not only from him, but from his whole family as well.
“We thought they all deserved the recognition,” she said about the dramatic impact that Spies family’s generosity will likely make in the community.
A formal disbursements event is expected to take place in Fannin County later this week.