Late farmer's generosity yields millions of dollars for Iowa parishes

Des Moines, Iowa — Iowa farmer Edwin "Bud" Skalla died Nov. 26, 2013, at age 92. Thanks to his generosity, local parishes will be reminded of him for many years to come.

That's because he left nearly 860 acres of farmland and other assets, including diamond rings, a Rolex watch and Cadillac vehicle, to 13 southwest Iowa parishes. He also left an additional piece of land exclusively for his home parish -- St. Mary in Portsmouth.

He was a native of Portsmouth and farmed in Shelby County.

An auction of the land and other property took place Feb. 15 at St. Mary Parish Center in Portsmouth and brought in nearly $7.9 million. The proceeds will be split among the parishes, most of which are in the Des Moines diocese. One is in the diocese of Sioux City.

"Wow, what a gift to the parishes," said Fr. John Dorton, who is pastor of St. Mary in Portsmouth and also pastor at St. Boniface Parish in Westphalia and St. Mary Parish in Panama.

Dorton said the money left behind will make a tremendous difference for the churches in these small communities.

"He could have lived anywhere, but his thoughts never strayed from Portsmouth and Shelby County," he told The Catholic Mirror, newspaper of the diocese of Des Moines. "Because of his generosity, we'll have more resources for doing God's work."

The parish has not yet decided what it will do with the funds, but the positive impacts will be felt for decades to come.

Fr. John Frost, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Harlan, agreed. St. Michael is one of the recipients.

"Financial stability is a very important issue," Frost said. "It's going to add greatly to our security and stability. It's no secret that the population in rural areas is declining."

Skalla's gift will enable St. Michael Parish to further establish an endowment and enrich the programs offered to parishioners.

"We're very grateful," Frost said. "It was a total surprise. Part of Bud's legacy is that he inspires others to acts of generosity. That's a tremendous gift in and of itself."

[Kelly Mescher Collins is a multimedia journalist on the staff of The Catholic Mirror, newspaper of the diocese of Des Moines.]

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