Zorita Zevely and Richard Simunek graduated from Hennessey, Oklahoma in 1964 and married in 1966. Even when they moved to Washington, DC for 38 years, Hennessey was always “home” to them. When Richard’s mother passed away in 2008, Zorita and Richard were surprised to see how well his parents planned. “Neither of them had gone to high school but they operated a very successful farming operation and planned very well for transferring their estate,” said Mr. Simunek. Richard’s parents inspired Zorita and Richard to set up their own estate plan and trust—and made the town of Hennessey the main benefactor.
Hennessey faces the hardship that many rural communities suffer—the loss of retail establishments and their sales tax that keeps the small-town budget afloat. It is difficult to maintain existing amenities and add new amenities with a small-town budget. Zorita and Richard wanted more for Hennessey.
First thing was first—they set up two funds. One fund covered the old library with its history center and the old high school gym that the town had taken possession of. Mr. Simunek said “The library fund will insure its preservation and free up funds for other town needs like streets. So, the library gift is of double benefit to Hennessey.” The second fund is for the improvement of Main Street. The second fund provides money for the town of Hennessey to acquire empty main street buildings and fix them up. Hennessey is then to offer the lowest rent possible to attract new retail business. “Our three block long main street has ten empty buildings. They are falling down. This fund will stop that,” said Mr. Simunek. “It is difficult to attract new businesses and have people wanting to live in Hennessey when main street buildings are falling down.”
Zorita passed away in 2012. Richard specified that the two funds are to be held in Zorita’s name to honor her memory. “Zorita is lost to us but all her hard work, vision, and support of others is not lost and will live forever with these two funds held by the Community Foundation of Oklahoma,” states Richard. “Zorita’s death was totally unexpected and so my advice to others is plan ahead now while you can,” states Richard.
“No one ever really spiritually leaves their hometown,” said Mr. Simunek. “Even if you move to California or New York, Texas or Montana, you’re always where you come from.” Zorita and Richard are examples of the impact that deliberately designed charitable giving can have on your community.