1. Archive

Retiree left millions to community

Published Sep. 13, 2005

Rose L. Case spent the last years of her life in an unassuming stucco home in Beacon Woods, drove an 8-year-old beige Chrysler, and once switched grocery stores to save 6 cents a gallon on bottled water.

Word of her wealth came after her July death, when Capt. Gregory Franks of the Salvation Army got a call from a representative at Case's bank.

She had left the organization $1.5-million and bequeathed a similar amount to Pasco-Hernando Community College.

The donations, made public this week, are some of the largest in Pasco history.

"It's unbelievable," said Franks. "I don't know that we'll ever see this again. I've never been in touch with this kind of money."

Case's gift also is one of the largest received by the community college foundation. The foundation, which started in 1975, took 15 years just to raise its first $1-million.

"This is something that does not happen every day," said Catherine Baumbach, the foundation's director.

The woman who gave $3-million to Pasco social institutions wanted little credit for her generosity. When Richard Williams Jr., Case's attorney, offered to give her a tour of the community college and introduce her to administrators, she refused.

"She said she'd already been out there and taken a drive around, and that was all she needed," Williams said.

Case was 79 and died in July of cancer. She left no survivors, and she wanted her money to go to institutions that helped the less fortunate, said Williams.

"She favored community colleges, because they were out there on the front end of things," Williams said.

Both Case and her husband, Leonard, were from New York. She worked as a buyer for a Long Island department store. He was an accountant who made his fortune in the stock market, and he had his share of well-known clients.

"He was not your average CPA," said Williams.

Mr. Case was a prominent donor to New York University, and he worked for Jock Whitney, the publisher of the New York Herald Tribune.

When Whitney's production of Gone with the Wind was plagued by cost overruns, Case got the call to bring things under control.

Rose Case married when she was 51. The couple moved to Florida when her husband took early retirement, and they settled into a life that gave little hint of their wealth.

They went out to dinner with their neighbor, Mary Ethel Heider, and occasionally traveled back to New York on vacation. Rose kept a careful eye on the house, Heider said, and was never one to mince words.

"She was always telling me how I should do this and do that," Heider said. "Rose was a character when it came to that. And she didn't take kidding too well."

But for all her severity, Heider said, Case had a soft side. She doted on her husband and insisted that her estate go to help Pasco.

"I mentioned NYU to her, because her husband had been a contributor," Williams said. "She said she was a Florida resident now, and that she wanted her money to go to institutions in Florida."

Pasco-Hernando Community College isn't sure how Case's bequest will be used. But the donation is likely to bring the college even more money, because it can be used to secure matching funds from the state.

At the Salvation Army, officials decided to incorporate a gymnasium into plans for a new community center on Ridge Road. Franks initially thought it would take the Salvation Army about five years to raise money for the gym.

"To sit there and hold a check for $1.5-million, it's astonishing," he said. "You hear about this kind of money all the time on TV, but when it's in your hands it's unbelievable."