A Georgia widow said today that her family's Christmas will celebrate "the goodness in men's hearts"--the kindness of strangers who, touched by her husband's suicide to prevent the sale of his farm, contributed $187,000 to retire the mortgage.
"Our land is going to be ours again," said 66-year-old Annabel Hill at a ceremony to burn the mortgage for the 705-acre Hill farm in Waynesboro, Ga.
Joining Mrs. Hill were developer Donald Trump and Texas farmer and landowner Tom McKamy, who donated the last $78,000 to pay off the debt, as well as Atlanta businessman Frank Argenbright Jr., who led fund-raising efforts.
The benefactors agreed that they were pleased to help Mrs. Hill, but said their efforts on her behalf were symbolic of their concern for the American farmer.
"We give a lot of money to foreign countries that don't give a damn about us, but we don't help the American farmers," Trump said.
Mrs. Hill's husband, Lenard, killed himself with a .22-caliber rifle on Feb. 4, just 20 minutes before the farm was to be auctioned to help pay a $300,000 debt. Two years of drought had been ruinous, Mrs. Hill said, and her husband thought the insurance money from his death was the only way to wipe out the debt.
It was not enough, and the farm was imperiled once again. Trump heard about the widow's plight in September and worked with Argenbright to raise the remaining $187,000. Donations of all sizes materialized--New York disc jockey Don Imus raised $15,000--but the debt remained at $78,000.
Trump offered to pay half that sum, and then McKamy--a sixth-generation farmer in North Dallas--offered to pay the rest. He also explained to Mrs. Hill how she could use new farming techniques to ensure that she gets the most from her acreage.