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Wealthy Benefactor : $2 Million Hard to Spend, Town Finds

Associated Press

Being on the receiving end of a $2-million bequest is great, but residents of this southern Illinois town are having a hard time deciding exactly how to spend it, the mayor says.

Chester’s 8,400 residents agreed right away to build a park honoring their benefactor, reclusive millionaire Gordon (Bud) Cohen, who died in July, 1983, and left most of his $6-million estate to the city, civic groups and charities, Mayor Stanley Macieiski said.

But there were almost as many ideas on what makes a park as there are townspeople, a planning committee found when it sent out questionnaires for suggestions.

Skating Rinks, Theaters

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“We had all sorts of ideas: everything from skating rinks to theaters to community center buildings,” Macieiski said.

He said initial plans call for construction of baseball diamonds, a jogging track and basketball and tennis courts, but no decisions have been made on what else the park and recreation complex will contain.

Macieiski said the city also had spent $41,000 to buy Cohen’s 130-year-old home overlooking the Mississippi River.

Cohen, who made a fortune in real estate during the Great Depression, had left the house to the Randolph County Historical Society.

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Bought House

“They were going to sell it,” the mayor said. “We felt that, rather than letting it go to an outsider, we would buy it in honor of his father and his mother, since they gave it to him.”

Macieiski said final decisions on the recreation complex, which he described as a five-year development project, should be made by May. Construction of the park also should be under way by then, he added.

The mayor said he did not know yet how much would be spent on the park, but he said interest on what was left would be enough to maintain it.

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Cohen, who was survived only by nieces and nephews, left about $800,000 to relatives and friends.

Set Up Trust Funds

He gave farmland worth $3 million to the Salvation Army and local Boy Scout and Girl Scout groups. He also set up trust funds: $100,000 for the public library, $200,000 for the American Legion post and $250,000 for the local Masonic Lodge.

Macieiski said residents of the town, about 50 miles southeast of St. Louis, were shocked to learn the size of its inheritance.

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