Superior 'curmudgeon’ leaves it all to the dogsMany knew William “Bill” Bunker as the town curmudgeon of Superior. In fact, even friends recognize the retired railroad clerk’s gruff exterior could be downright embarrassing.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Many knew William “Bill” Bunker as the town curmudgeon of Superior.
In fact, even friends recognize the retired railroad clerk’s gruff exterior could be downright embarrassing.
“Bill was a guy who did it his own way,” said longtime friend John Bray of Duluth.
But they also say, despite his brashness, if he liked you, he had a heart of gold and would do anything for you.
And late last week, the Humane Society of Douglas County found out just how big that heart could be. Bunker left his estate to the Humane Society when he passed away in July.
With the bills paid and affairs settled, Alex Kotter of Superior, a friend for more than half a century and executor of Bunker’s estate, turned over $107,162.09 to the Humane Society of Douglas County, keeping with Bunker’s wishes. That’s in addition to a $3,000 life insurance policy for which the Humane Society was the beneficiary, Kotter said.
Bunker’s contributions to the Humane Society could pay for operations for more than a year. Or they could make needed repairs; however, the organization is hoping to put them to better use than that.
“What we would really like to do is, if we are included in the new shelter, we would take this full amount from Bill Bunker’s estate and put it into the construction of the new building,” said Marcy Barby, Humane Society treasurer. “With that amount of funds, we would have some naming rights, and so ideally, they would name a section of the shelter — maybe one of the adoption rooms or the dog ward or something — in Bill Bunker’s name, which we think would be a very lasting way … for his money to make a difference for animals for years to come.”
For about four years, the city of Superior has been contemplating construction of a new animal shelter. And merging the Twin Ports area animal adoption organizations — Animal Allies, the Animal Rescue Federation and Humane Society — was recommended by the Humane Society for the United States when the organization evaluated Superior’s shelter needs.
While Animals Allies and the former rescue federation successfully joined forces to operate the Superior animal shelter, the Humane Society was going to remain open until the new shelter was built.
However, with money tight, next month the council is scheduled to consider the size and location of the new shelter.
With no money coming forward from towns and an offer from Douglas County that is a fraction of what would be needed to operate a countywide shelter, the council is contemplating a shelter for the city only.
The Humane Society of Douglas County is hoping the gift of Bunker’s estate will help to persuade the council to consider a shelter large enough to serve all of Douglas County.
Barby said the Humane Society could spend the entire gift making needed repairs to the rural shelter near U.S. Highways 2/53 in one season, but the region would still be supporting the operating expenses of two shelters rather than one.
While the Humane Society receives about $5,200 annually from Douglas County government, Barby said the remainder of the shelter’s $100,000 annual operating budget comes from adoption fees and fundraising.
Kotter, who likes the idea of combining the shelters, said it’s an idea that Bunker would have supported whole-heartedly had he known that when he made up his will in 2008.
With few living relatives, Bunker named Kotter to be his personal representative a few years ago.
At the time, Kotter told him to put on paper what he wanted done with his estate and he would make sure that happened.
“I didn’t even see a will at the time,” Kotter said, but he knew Bunker had an affinity for a breed of dog often used when hunting birds.
“Bill always had a dog, springer spaniels, and he was very sensitive to the needs of animals,” Bray said.
“He was very fond over the years — he had a number of springer spaniels,” Kotter said. “He did a lot of pheasant hunting in the Dakotas and he loved springer spaniels. He had been out to the Humane Society a number of times. I don’t know if he knew they had a need for funding.”
So when Bunker, 77, passed away July 28, Kotter sold Bunker’s East End home to a friend of Bunker’s, Archie Benson, who helped get the railroad clerk to his doctor appointments. And he sold Bunker’s new Ford truck and other assets.
And he paid off the few bills that Bunker had and bought a headstone for Bunker, and his parents, Mary Mae and William Bunker Jr.
The rest is going to the animals.
“Bill had a gruff side, but when you got to know him, got past that shell of gruffness, there was a big heart there,” Bray said.
“He was a dandy,” Kotter said. “He was a good heart. If he liked you, he would do most anything for you.”