Thursday, July 12, 2007

Final words about those (ill) wills

THE OL' CURMUDGEON was lying in the weeds, waiting for me the other day.
"Say, Corbett, whatcha goin' to leave me when you depart?"
"What?" I intoned. "You know, when you croak," he muttered.
Those words I understood.
"Well, you can have visiting rights to Molly the Cat and Benny the Hound and a couple of ol' fishin' poles that I used to catch the Big One off Campbell River," I answered without the slightest hesistation.
The conversation actually spurred me into chasing down a litany of final wills, mostly strange, some humourous, and even bizarre, which struck my fancy. Maybe, you'll get either a groan or, maybe, a laugh or two out of the following:
* Ms. Eleanor Ritchey, the unmarried granddaughter of the founder of Quaker State Oil, died in 1968 with an estate worth about $12 million. It seems she left more than 1,700 pairs of shoes and 1,200 boxes of stationery to the Salvation Army. The rest of the estate went to the dogs. Yes, real mutts, for it seems, Ms. Eleanor was a collector of some 150 strays.
* Francis R. Lord, a thrifty Aussie, left one shilling to his wife and these words: "It's for tram fare so she can go somewhere and drown herself." Mrs. Lord never claimed the inheritance.
* Sandra West, who happened to be a filthy rich socialite from Beverly Hills, left most of her $3 million estate to her brother if he buried her in a lace nightgown in her Ferrari. Well, her Ferrari was packed in concrete so no one would later dig it up and drive it away. Apparently, Sandra and the Ferrari are still "parked."
* Did you hear about the woman from North Carolina, who left her estate to God? When the court told the county sheriff to find her beneficiary, he eventually submitted his report, which read: "After due and diligent search, God cannot be found in this county."
* Edgar Bergen left 10 grand to the Actor's Fund of America with one stipulation that Bergen's "friend" -- Charlie McCarthy -- come out of retirement once a year. The Fund went along with it, but it makes one wonder who does Charlie's voiceovers?
Then there's the bequeathing of both immovable and movable properties as Roshni Johar reported in India's Tribune:
* One eccentric wrote his will not on paper, but on his door in red chalk, making two witnesses sign it. The court, however, called that an absurdity, but it was finally settled when the executers unhinged the door and produced the will in court.
* Did you know that Leo Tolstoy left his possessions to the stump of a tree? Would I make up such a tale?
* German Countess Carlotta Liebenstein, who died in 1991, left 139 million German marks to Gunther III. Incidentally, III was a pet dog and now Gunther IV has a personal maid, a limo and a custom-made swimming pool. Some lucky dog, eh?
* Jimmy, Trunte, Fifi, Trine, Grinni and Gigi are six lucky chimps in the Copenhagen zoo. It seems an 83-year-old Danish woman left her entire fortune of $67,000 to them. A lawyer went to the zoo and read them their inheritance. It makes one wonder if they understood one word of it.
And speaking of eccentrics, there's the one about the wealthy New Yorker, who left the following will: "To my wife I leave one dollar and the knowledge that I wasn't the fool she thought I was. To my son, I leave the pleasure of earning a living which he had not done in 35 years."
Finally, the friendly librarian in Falkland, near the Ol' Homestead, scoured the website and found these gems:
* From England in a more gentle and generous time: The retired Sir Joseph Jekyll, Master of the Rolls and, therefore, a very senior judge, left his considerable estate to pay off the national debt. A contemporary commentator suggested he might as well have "attempted to block the middle arch of Blackfriars Bridge with his full-bottomed wig." More surprisingly, perhaps, the will was later set aside on the 'ground of imbecility.'
* Even further back in time was Billy Shakespeare's bequest: "I gyve to my wief my second-best bed with the furniture."
That's a good one, William, even if you couldn't spell gyve (give) or wief (wife).
Then there's the bizarre 911 calls such as this one:
(Dispatcher) 911. What's your emergency?
(Caller) I'm scared.
(Dispatcher) What's the problem?
(Caller) I just got a Ouija board for my birthday and now there's writing on my wall and I can't get it off ... This thing is going back to Kmart first thing in the morning!
DID YOU KNOW? (From The Book of Lists): James Cagney never uttered the line, "You dirty rat" in any of his roles as a hard-boiled gangster. Cagney impersonators often used it ... Also, Cary Grant never uttered the line, "Judy, Judy, Judy."

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