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SANTA ANA : $612,000 Bequeathed to Police Dogs Unit

Some people like cats. Others birds. Yet others fish.

For LaVerne Wheeler, it was dogs.

The Balboa resident, who died in 1991, has bequeathed $612,000 to the Santa Ana Police Department for the purpose of purchasing police dogs, Julius Aarons, her attorney, said Friday.

Guide Dogs of America in Sylmar, which trains dogs for the blind, also was one of several beneficiaries presented with checks last week by the executive of Wheeler’s estate.

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“All this has been a real surprise,” said John Pettitt of the Sylmar organization. “We’re going to buy a couple new vans and fix our buildings up. We’ve got four buildings, but some are in bad shape. One needs a new air conditioner.”

Many may think it is odd that the antique dealer, who died at the age of 79, decided to give a chunk of her inheritance away to dogs, but Aarons said “she knew what she was doing” when she wrote her will.

“She didn’t just give to dogs, she gave to people too,” said Aarons, who was also Wheeler’s friend. “She wasn’t some crazy person standing on the corner giving out dollar bills.”

Wheeler ended up giving $2.1 million to different charitable organizations, Aarons said.

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Wheeler did not have any children, but she has two brothers in Northern California, who settled out of probate court, winning $25,000 each, after challenging the will, Aarons said.

Other organizations that benefited from Wheeler’s generosity included Greenpeace, an environmental group based in Washington, and a shelter for abused women.

Calls to the Santa Ana Police Department media affairs division, to determine how the money would be spent, were not returned.


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