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    Frugality leads to windfalls of warmth

    Eight charities receive big checks from the estate of a thrifty couple who wanted to help children.

    By MICHAEL SANDLER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 31, 2002

    LARGO -- Edith Marhoff had no children, so she never experienced the joy that comes watching a son or daughter graduate from college.

    But somewhere children battling cancer now have a chance to earn a degree, thanks to her generosity.

    Mrs. Marhoff, who died in October at age 80, left behind an estate worth nearly $4.5-million. She and her husband, Hudson, who died eight years earlier, left instructions to give it all away to charity.

    On Tuesday, their dying wish was honored as nearly 80 percent of the money was distributed to eight charities.

    "It's amazing that they had all that money and no one knew," said Tere Shelton, accepting a $400,000 check for a local chapter of the American Heart Association. "I just wish we were able to thank her."

    The Largo couple watched ever penny. They lived out their retirement in a mobile home park, bought second-hand clothes at church rummage sales and drove around in a 1959 Chrysler Imperial that Hudson seldom allowed to go faster than 40 mph, just to save on gas.

    In spirit, they were no less meticulous. The couple left strict instructions for how they thought their fortune should be spent.

    They gave the American Cancer Society money to help build a lodge where patients visiting Moffitt can stay for free and for scholarships to send young cancer survivors to college.

    They asked the American Heart Association to use their gift for research and CPR classes for high school students. The Salvation Army will have more money for counseling substance abuse victims and clothing for poor families.

    "Her best wishes were to help children as much as possible," said Earl Slosberg, the Marhoffs' financial adviser, who distributed the estate. "Once you get the money, it really is an honor system. We are telling you how she felt."

    Florida United Methodist Church's Home and Hospice of Florida Suncoast each received $600,000 Tuesday and can expect up to another $100,000 when the taxes are settled.

    Six other charities received $400,000 and will get a second check of up to $35,000. They are the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, the Haven spouse abuse shelter and the Unity School of Christianity in Missouri.

    Mike Bell of Hospice said his organization was honored to be on the list. Hospice cared for Hudson Marhoff shortly before his death in 1993. Mrs. Marhoff received support services in her final years.

    "It's very humbling that she knew us and very intentionally made this gift to extend our service to others," said Bell, a vice president of development and community relations. "It feels like a relationship we are pledging to honor. We plan to make good use of the gift she graced us with."

    -- Michael Sandler can be reached at 445-4174 or

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