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Local Historical Society Passes on Half Million Dollar Gift

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

Time is running out for a local historical society to cash in on a major gift. But there's a catch.

A Lodi man died last year, leaving the Lodi Valley Historical Society $500,000. But he made a stipulation some refuse to honor.

The small town of Lodi is home to Victorian buildings, Susie the Duck and a controversy of historic proportion.

Janet Glimme, a resident of Lodi says, "Lodi would be boring without a little controversy."

The uproar stems from a dead man's legacy.

"I guess I'm kind of shocked that he did that," Glimme says.

Ray Brown left the Lodi Valley Historical Society half a million dollars, provided board members do one thing, resign.

"Maybe he decided they weren't taking good care of it," society member Tracy Edgerly says.

A friend of Brown says the Lodi native knew the board well.

"He talked with them. He went to monthly meetings with them," Edgerly says.

But they refuse to live by his last request.

"I think they want to be in control," Edgerly added.

The board has refused to resign. Susan Bowen, who lives nearby, says "it's madness, walking away from it. The money is so tight everywhere, I can't imagine not taking the money for something that can be so beneficial to future generations."

Some say the society's biggest problem is perhaps its hours. Half a million dollars could open the door to Lodi's past more often.

Edgerly says, "I know on several occasions city celebrations, parades, Susie the Duck day, you do walk past and it's closed."

Brown donated the society's building, the Jolivette House, in memory of his dead wife.
Edgerly says Brown's dream was to have a Victorian home as a museum, open for children and visitors to tour.

But others in Lodi say the society's quaint space fits the small town just fine, and they support the board.

"I can't see anyone else taking over because they've done it a long time and they know what they're doing and they know what they're talking about," Judy Buchanan says of board members.

Either way, you can expect people to talk about this piece of Lodi history for a long time.

The board has until early March to reverse its decision.

Otherwise, Brown's attorney says the money will go through probate court, then likely go to Brown's heirs.

Board members referred us to their attorney, who says members will issue a statement to explain their decision.

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