Havre Daily News
Friends say the attention accorded a humble Joplin farmer's posthumous donations likely would have embarrassed him.
Mostly recently, the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch Foundation named its new horticulture center after Herbert Poetzl.
“If he was still alive, he probably wouldn't want his name on it,” Kyle Rudolph said. “But he would be proud of it.”
Poetzl, who had been an anonymous donor when he was alive, left many state and local causes large amounts of money in his will.
He's described as a quiet man who kept to himself. Friend and neighbor Paul Johnson said Poetzl was very wealthy but never showed it or bragged about it.
“One fine neighbor,” said Johnson, who now lives in Shelby.
He was a lifelong bachelor with several cousins as survivors. Poetzl left some of his estate to his family and pretty much everything else to charities, Rudolph said.
“All I can say is good about him,” Johnson said Thursday.
Johnson recalled his favorite story that Poetzl told, which Johnson repeated at Poetzl's funeral: Herb was renting land from a man who always drove Model T's. The man bought a 1938 International pickup and had trouble with it. He was trying to pull into the garage and accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake and went right through the garage and out into the field Herb was in. After that, the man would always open both doors just in case he did the same thing again - and he did. The only damage to the vehicle was a little dent.
“Old-timers had trouble with new technology,” Johnson said with a laugh.
The story of the horticulture center began about 20 years ago when the president of the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch Foundation stopped by the Joplin area to introduce himself and tell people about his cause, said Carla Stadtmiller, who works for the foundation. The president met Poetzl.
“(Poetzl) said, ‘Thanks for stopping by' and that was it,” Stadtmiller said.
That was it until two years ago when Poetzl died at the ago of 95 and left the Boys and Girls Ranch $750,000. Stadtmiller said the ranch, which provides educational and employment opportunities for emotionally troubled boys and girls, had no idea the donation was coming and had not received any previous gifts from Poetzl. The money was used to help build a 13,000-square-foot greenhouse at the ranch near Billings. The Herbert J. Poetzl Horticulture Center's dedication ceremony was held on Oct. 23.
“The center is compatible with Poetzl's life's work of farming and his willingness to help kids,” John Eastman, vice president of development for the ranch foundation, said Thursday.
Poetzl farmed wheat and barley until he was 90.
The Boys and Girls Ranch is in the process of selling its poinsettia crop. The profits will go back into the program and also help pay the kids who work at the center.
Poetzl left the Sweet Grass Lodge Bequest Fund a large sum as well. The president of the Chester retirement home's board, Steve Brown, said Thursday that there has been much talk among the board members as to what to do with the about half-million dollars in stocks, bonds and cash. The only part of the gift used so far was to pay off the retirement home's bank loan, which took quite a bit of money, Brown said.
Another recipient was Shodair Children's Hospital in Helena. Hospital administrator Jack Casey said the hospital will put the about $600,000 into its foundation and use the interest from the money to pay for treatment for kids who can't afford it and help complete a swimming pool.
“When things start to look bleak, donations like this breathe new life into the hospital,” Casey said today.
Poetzl left another $500,000 to Liberty County Hospital and Nursing Home, where he lived the last five years of his life. Other causes named in Poetzl's will were: Liberty Health Planning Council, Chester High School Scholarship Fund, Joplin-Inverness Scholarship Fund and Concordia College in Minnesota.