Jean Wheeler may not have been the beneficiary of her mother’s $285,000 estate, but she received a million-dollar dog in the deal.
Her mother, Jean Gravitt, died in December and left her entire estate to the Franklin County Humane Society.
Wheeler and her brother, Jim Anderson, cleaned their mother’s home, painted, cleaned the carpet and put it up for sale — knowing the entire time they wouldn’t receive a penny of the profit.
But Wheeler was left with one thing: Emily, a Jack Russell terrier and Australian shepherd mix.
She had gone with her mother to pick Emily up from the shelter. She said Gravitt had found a picture of the dog printed in The State Journal and clipped it out.
“Sure enough, Mom came home with Emily,” she said. “As soon as they got out that door, she went running underneath Mom’s car like she knew which one it was.”
Wheeler said it was her mother who helped instill a love of animals in her — the same love that motivated Gravitt to leave her estate to the humane society to go toward construction of a new shelter.
Gravitt had adopted several dogs from the humane society over the years and was always concerned with its location on the flood plain.
“They say money can’t buy you happiness, but it will at this place,” Wheeler said. “Those dogs will be safe and happy in a new home.”
Sam Marcus, president of the humane society, said the money gives the organization a jump-start in a capital campaign to build a new shelter, which has been a long-time goal.
“It’s certainly not our intention to build a Taj Mahal of shelters,” Marcus told The State Journal. “We don’t feel that’s appropriate and we don’t feel that’s necessary.”
He said the new shelter could cost about $2 million.
Gravitt’s estate will be added to the $40,000 currently in the new building fund and part of the $77,000 PETCO Foundation grant awarded earlier this year. In total, the humane society has almost $400,000 toward its goal and will begin seriously looking for a new site.
“We certainly hate being in the flood plain, and until now no one or nothing has been able to change that,” he said during a ceremony Tuesday, when a giant check was passed over to the humane society. “We will do everything we can to build a new shelter in the very near future.”
Marcus said the shelter will be built in Gravitt’s name, and he will be working with Wheeler to determine the best way to honor her mother’s memory.
Bill Kirkland, the attorney who helped settle the estate, said Gravitt’s children never once tried to break the will or make a deal.
“They’re not wealthy people,” he said. “They’re people who work hard.”
Wheeler said she knew about the will before her mother’s death, and she was just happy to do whatever she could to make it happen.
“That’s just something you do for your parents that you don’t even think about,” she said.
But Marcus interjected — not all people would be so selfless with the transaction, he said.
“I just hope she’s pleased with what we’ve done,” Wheeler said.