Kenneth Whalen, a former San Lorenzo Avenue resident who died Dec. 1, 2008, left in his will $146,000 to the Felton Library, $146,000 to the Felton Fire Protection District and $19,000 to the Felton Cemetery.
Whalen also established scholarships in his name at the University of California, Berkeley, in his late wife Shirley Whalen’s name at California State University, Chico, and in his late daughter Christie Sue Saxton’s name at California State University, Stanislaus, in Turlock.
“I think that the gifts reflect a love of the community and the importance of higher education,” said Rick Polse, the estates’ trustee.
The Felton fire board of directors accepted the gift Monday, Aug. 3.
Fire Chief Ron Rickabaugh said the money is earmarked to help pay for capital assets or the renovation of capital assets.
“We certainly want to honor their wishes and their trust,” said Rickabaugh, who added he will compare his wish list with the fire board’s regarding the money before it is spent.
There is no specific reason friends could give as to why Whalen chose the Felton organizations, except that he loved living in Felton after he retired about 30 years ago.
One friend, Bob Anderson, met Whalen for coffee every week.
“I never thought Ken had much money,” Anderson said. “It just really surprised me when I found out.”
Anderson said Whalen, a career Pacific Gas and Electric Co. employee, told him he had about $2.5 million before he died at age 88.
With help from the money it received, the Felton Cemetery recently expanded its parking lot to accommodate larger funerals in a safe manner, said Frank Winkler, president of the cemetery’s board of directors.
Whalen was friends with Winkler and a couple of other board members and is buried in the cemetery next to his wife, who died in 1997.
“I was very glad to hear he left us some money,” Winkler said.
The cash-strapped library might benefit the most from the gift.
The Felton Library Friends have worked with architect Teall Messer to develop plans for a new library next to the post office on a plot donated by the Verutti family.
Whalen’s gift is earmarked specifically for the Felton Library, said Teresa Landers, Santa Cruz County’s library director.
“We’re delighted, we’re excited, and we hope there will be more (gifts),” Landers said. “We’re looking for a lot more support, and we hope this can be a model.”
The Felton Friends have put in many hours to prepare a plan to build when money is available.
“The Whalen trust could definitely be used for expenses related to the new building, prior to getting the millions of dollars that will be needed to build it,” Felton Library Friends spokesman Paul Machlis said.