Man leaves $1.75 million to Pauls Valley church

Monday, January 21st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PAULS VALLEY, Okla. (AP) _ A local church is receiving an estimated $1.75 million from the estate of a man who for years had impressed members of the congregation with his generosity.

Lawrence Ealey, who died two years ago at age 99, used to stand by his truck after church on Sundays and give away fresh vegetables from his garden.

``He'd just back his truck up, and start handing out squash or cucumbers or whatever was in season that week,'' said Betty Densmore, a longtime member of First Presbyterian Church. ``The people from the church would line up at his truck.

``He just loved giving.''

By order of his will, an estimated $1.75 million will be given to his church for educational scholarships. The estate will be finalized by the end of this month.

John Blake, Ealey's attorney and a member of First Presbyterian Church, says the lavish gift caught no one by surprise.

``Mr. Ealey made no secret about what his intentions were,'' Blake said. ``He wanted everyone to know about the scholarship fund, and he never deviated from that plan.''

Ealey's gift promises to have a dramatic impact on the small church, which draws an average of 63 people a week. He also left a detailed criteria for those who hope to qualify for the scholarships, which are open to members of all ages and may be used for different educational forums.

The guidelines, Blake said, are liberal and strict.

Ealey asked that applicants must be members of the church for at least one year and that the church's nine elders would give final approval.

Applicants must have at least a 75 percent attendance record at church. Church attendance is kept.

``We have a sign-in sheet at the end of each pew,'' Blake said. ``I imagine attendance will go up, but that might be a mixed blessing.''

Blake said he explained a potential downside of Ealey's will before his death, and Ealey assured him everything would be fine.

``I told Mr. Ealey, 'You realize we'll probably have people join the church just so they can qualify for the scholarship,' '' Blake said. ``He said, 'Good!'

``That's what he wanted.''