A reclusive penny-saving spinster whose funeral drew only a single mourner has earned a multitude of friends nearly four years after her death with thousands of dollars in surprise charitable donations.
The estate of jewelry polisher Katherine M. Schaff distributed $105,000 in checks that began arriving on Christmas Eve at 14 agencies, including the first-aid squad, fire company and youth and mental health centers.
"Had the people in town known she was about to bestow more than $100,000 on them, I'm sure they all would have come to her grave and paid tribute to her," said Joan Codiroli, who attended her 1982 funeral accompanied only by a minister and the driver of the hearse.
Codiroli, who was Schaff's friend and neighbor, said the recluse died in a nursing home at the age of 90 after amassing a small fortune with a frugal life style that included wearing 20-year-old handmade clothes and blouses cut from her dead brother's shirts.
Schaff never left New Jersey and took only one vacation--a day trip to Asbury Park--and watched television in the dark to save on electric bills, Codiroli said.
Schaff chose the charities to receive her bequests on the basis of kindnesses they had done for her in life, Codiroli said.
"It's simply unbelievable, especially coming on Christmas Eve," said Jane Witte of the Pequannock Township First Aid and Rescue Squad, which helped Schaff several times when she had to be hospitalized. The squad received $35,000. "Now we won't have to scrounge around and raise the money."