After our father, Wally, passed away we both seemed to have a new lens on life, especially on how to spend our time and energy. We started to call it, What Would Wally Want? and his lifelong partner “best-ex” liked to think about What Would Wally Do?
Before we share that chapter of our money stories, there are a few that surround Wally’s death
- One of the most surreal things about Wally’s death was that he was found peacefully in his bed on the same day that he was supposed to meet with the lawyer and his sister, our Aunt Carol, to settle the estate of his mother, our Grandma Jones. She had passed away at age 94 the summer before, and it turned out that we scattered his ashes on the one year anniversary of her death.
- Wally also happened to pass away just after Kevin and I had signed our own wills/directives. I remember telling myself that I would have the tough conversation about writing up both (I actually had had the conversation once before when Grandpa Ellis was in hospice, and didn’t have a directive, and Wally still wanted to avoid the topic…even though he understood the need). Miel talked to him about a Will on the last day they saw each other, and luckily got some information about what his intentions would have been. It didn’t save 7 months of probate, but it did help us to know his wishes.
- In our late teens, we remember driving back from Fern Ridge Reservoir and him telling us about how Grandpa Ellis was going to sell his rhododendron nursery for a million and a half because a developer wanted to build condos near the mall, and he was way past retirement age by that time.
- We remember Grandpa Ellis deciding to buy a post office, since it seemed at the time to be one of the safest investments possible at the time. He also wanted to invest in something that was a bit fool proof, knowing that asset management might not be the top skill of his wife and kids. Now the future is rather bleak for small post offices, but we can hope that the modern one built in the 90’s will be useful for many years to come… Regardless of the future, the investment gave/gives a reliable return rate. It brings in just over $5k in rent each month, and the only maintenance is a roof and siding, even the taxes are reimbursed by the feds. Now we each earn a 1/4 of the total business (Aunt Carol owns 1/2), which we’ve fondly and playfully named Sahalie and Koosah Adventures, LLC. At the moment, our income goes directly to pay the mortgages on the beach cabins…which we’ll share more about below…
- Truthfully, the inheritance was always this “someday” thing. Someday when Wally would inherit his parents money he would travel…buy fixer houses and invest like his good friend, Robert. When we went through all his belongings, a blank passport application was sitting on the top of this desk. He had only ever traveled to Mexico hitch hiking in his youth (where he met the astonishing woman from The Survival of Jan Little ).
- In the stack of mail, he had just requested to cancel his life insurance, which his mother had invested in 1963 and she had continued to pay on it for almost fifty years. Thankfully it hadn’t actually expired yet…six days later and the $40k in life insurance would have been null and void.
- He also had made two loans to his friend, Robert, with money from his father’s inheritance when banks weren’t lending money to landlords with dozens of rentals. The timing turned out just fine, and we were repaid just in time to finish paying for the beach cabins.
- Which brings us to our biggest family investment, our beloved Olivia Beach Camp Cabins. This investment feels both very intentional and very serendipitous. It’s frankly a big enough deal in our lives to warrant another post, but it’s a good way to wrap up this post…since Wally would have wanted us to invest in our dreams and live them.
- He also would have wanted us to be generous. That’s why we chose to give away virtually all of his material possessions to his friends. The day after his wake, we invited his closest dozen plus friends over to take what they wanted…music collections, skis, backpacks, furniture, dishes…it was pretty much all up for grabs. Prior to the giveaway, we had each collected a few boxes of belongings, but neither of us wanted to hoard his things. Miel’s favorite take away was a nice carabiner from Wally’s key chain that is now on her own keys and Darcy treasures the variety of musical instruments for the kids to learn and play. Within the next few days, everything else was donated.
- After we got the inheritance, we also gave $10k to his ex-partner. While never married, they were best friends and lovers for nearly thirty years. She in turn chose to use the money wisely, and occasionally on things that Wally would have wanted, like concert tickets or a pint. This was one of the wishes that Wally had mentioned in his discussion with Miel about he need for a will.
- As we come close to the country fair, I recall one of my last fair memories with him. We had met up on Sunday afternoon at Toby’s Tofu Palace, and he could sense that I was mentally debated about whether to pay an extra $3 to get an hibiscus cooler. He shared his sage wisdom, always opt to get the drink. It’s always worth it; you won’t regret it.