An elderly southwest Iowa bachelor farmer who is remembered as quiet and frugal left behind millions of dollars in cash and property in his will to benefit more than a dozen churches in the region. Edwin “Bud” Skalla of rural Shelby County died in November at age 92.

The conservator of Skalla’s estate, Ray Chipman, says there’s more than two-million dollars in cash assets and more than 1,100 acres of land in Harrison and Shelby counties. “During his lifetime, he wouldn’t have bought you a cup of coffee that cost five cents, but now in his passing, I think we can say 98-percent  of his estate will be given to the Catholic churches in southwest Iowa,” Chipman says.

In particular, St. Mary Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Portsmouth will inherit a 292-acre farm which was appraised at almost three-million dollars. “The residual of his estate, we have 858 acres of farmland to sell, depending on what that brings added to over $2.5 million in cash assets that he has, that total will be distributed between the 13 Catholic churches,” Chipman says.

He says Skalla didn’t come from a wealthy family and built most of his assets in investments. Skalla was never married and didn’t have any children, though he is survived by two sisters. Father John Dorton, of St. Mary’s in Portsmouth, read from a letter written by Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, saying how the Catholic communities are “enormously grateful” to Skalla for his “extraordinarily generous remembrance of the parishes in his will.”

“Bud was engaged in the most noble of professions, farming,” Dorton read. “Through his dedicated work, he provided nourishment for the human body which fortified countless thousands. Now, in death, through his legacy, he will enrich the human spirit through faith and spiritual development.” The churches benefiting in Shelby County are: St. Michael’s in Harlan, St. Peter’s in Defiance, St. Joseph’s in Earling, St. Boniface in Westphalia, St. Mary’s in Portsmouth and St. Mary’s in Panama.

In Harrison County: St. Patrick’s Church in Missouri Valley, St. Anne’s Church in Logan, St. Patrick’s in Dunlap and Sacred Heart in Woodbine. In addition, St. Patrick’s in Neola, St. Rose of Lima in Denison and St. Patrick’s in Council Bluffs are also beneficiaries. Skalla spent all but 13 years of his life on his farm southeast of Portsmouth before moving to Elm Crest Retirement Community in Harlan.

The auction for the land will be held in Portsmouth on February 15th at St. Mary’s Parish Hall in Portsmouth.

(Reporting by Joel McCall, KNOD, Harlan)