Dennis Valstad thank you will, Who pays people to attend his funeral?
Who pays people to attend his funeral? Dennis Valstad, that’s who.
In his last will and testament drafted in 2017, the Ripon man inserted the following language and then didn’t tell anyone about it:
“The sum of $500,000 to be divided equally to the individuals that attend my funeral. Attendance shall be determined by the names on the visitation book or where attendance can be documented by some form of reliable documentation.”
Valstad, a lifelong bachelor who ran a dry cleaning business among other jobs, had a stroke and died on July 13 at age 69. A week or so later, the visitation, funeral and burial took place.
It turns out that anyone who bothered to attend any or all of these opportunities to remember Valstad will be receiving a check for about $1,872 if the number of attendees holds up.
“We created a spreadsheet and we have 267 people that we accounted for,” said Julie Maslowski, an attorney handling the estate.
“I took great pains to read the language of the will very specifically. Honestly, I had great concerns that this could erupt into something that could be a big mess,” she said.
That’s why this has stretched out two months beyond Valstad’s death. She wanted to make sure everyone was tallied, either from the sign-in book or from what other mourners saw.
Her firm, Young & Maslowski of Oshkosh, sent out letters dated Aug. 29 and addressed to, “Dear attendee to visitation/funeral/burial.”
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If a couple attended, they each got a letter and will each soon get a check. One couple stopped at the funeral with three children in tow. That’s five checks on the way. The pastor and organist and servers at the funeral all will receive a tax-free gift from the grave. You just had to be there.
Helga Rikkers and her husband, Rik, attended the funeral on a rainy day and Rik was invited to speak about his friend Valstad. Helga was shocked by the letter that arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago.
“I said to the people that were around me, ‘I have to read this out loud to be sure I’m reading what I think I’m reading,'” she said. “He was a very kind man. I can see him doing something totally different from everybody else.”
“The moral of the story,” Rik laughed, “is don’t miss a funeral.”
“It’s a beautiful story,” said friend and funeral attendee Russ Skurr. “You don’t hear these kinds of things happening very often. He must have been chuckling to himself for quite a while, knowing what he knew and what he was going to do.”
Valstad grew up in the Barneveld area and graduated from UW-Platteville in 1972 before serving in the Army, his obituary says. He moved to Ripon in Fond du Lac County where he worked many years at Green Giant and operated Vogue Dry Cleaning.
He was too antsy to retire, so he delivered fertilizer and drove Pierce firetrucks made in Appleton to the communities nationwide that ordered them. He was active in his church and community organizations, and also willed money to them. He owned a home in Ripon and obviously was a thrifty fellow.
He is survived by two sisters who didn’t return my calls. People who know them said they were fine with their brother’s choice to give away much of his money to townsfolk.
“Dennis was a strong Christian. He was a deep thinker and an interesting guy,” said Don Jorgensen, a retiree who was asked by Valstad to be personal representative of his estate. Ironically, Jorgensen won’t be getting a check because he was out of town during the funeral.
“I would have given it away anyway,” he said. In his will, Valstad directed funeral attendees who don’t need the money to pass it along to charity.
Valstad also was careful to ensure that his plan did not leak out. He wrote a message on the envelope containing his will.
“I had to laugh,” attorney Maslowski said. “It says do not open until after the funeral.”