Will Puts Town’s Present in the Future
Wallace (Pick) Pickering once thrilled young relatives with tales of imaginary forest predators and impossibly harsh New England winters.
But he saved his best story for children unborn: the tale of a man who left his beloved town $18,000 it couldn’t touch for 100 years.
When Pickering died last year at age 88, Plainfield officials asked the courts to interpret his will and determine if he really meant for the town to wait until 2091 for the money. They also contacted Pickering’s friend and lawyer, state Rep. Peter Burling, who helped write the will in 1985.
“ ‘Pick’ came in with an idea pretty much fully formed. His idea was to have a meaningful corpus build up, something that would have a significant sum. He was very clear in his mind,” Burling said.
Now that they know Pickering’s intentions, Plainfield officials won’t pursue the matter further in court, Town Administrator Stephen Halleran said.
With modest interest, the bequest could build to about $10 million in 100 years, said Jesse Stalker, treasurer of the town’s trust funds. But, with inflation taken into account, Stalker calculated that the value in 1991 dollars will be more like $100,000 to $150,000.
Along with the 100-year delay, Pickering specified that his bequest be spent to benefit Plainfield Plain, one of two villages making up Plainfield, a community of about 2,000 situated about 50 miles northwest of Concord.
Although Plainfield Plain and Meriden, separated by a few miles of farms and woods, are essentially one town, the two always have competed, Halleran said. Each has its own fire company, church and town meeting hall.
Meriden’s downtown is smaller--the general store doubles as post office and bank. But it has Kimball Union Academy, a private high school that brings Meriden jobs and sports and cultural activities that Plainfield Plain doesn’t have.
Pickering said in his will that his “sense of fairness and equality,” as well as loyalty to the village where he lived, led him to direct that the bequest be spent in the Plain.
The money is to be used for scholarships, families in need or simply improving the village, a row of tidy but slightly faded New England farmhouses with a general store, church and post office.
Pickering named the trust for his wife, Beulah, who captured his heart more than 40 years ago when they worked as nurses in Massachusetts.
They settled in Plainfield, where he developed a “deep and abiding affection for the village,” Pickering wrote in the will. He was the town’s health officer, a planning commissioner and fire department volunteer. He helped found the community’s water district.
“He had a wonderful New England mix of thoughtfulness and determination and faithfulness. There are only a few people who are as faithful as ‘Pick’ was to Beulah and his community,” Burling said.
Pickering was known as a creative storyteller who delighted children and adults alike. Although he had no children of his own, Pickering had nine brothers and sisters, and several nieces and nephews who loved to hear his tales.
Medical expenses consumed much of the couple’s money in their final years. Beulah Pickering died in 1988.
In Pickering’s last years, a stroke left him speechless, niece Anne Gallagher said.
But her uncle’s last story will be told again.
“I don’t think he did this as a joke or to get any notoriety. He was very much in love with his wife, and he wanted her to be remembered,” she said.