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Charitable foundation begins bumpy journey

January
21
1960

On this day in 1960, Sarita Kenedy East, co-heir to the 400,000-acre Kenedy Ranch, and two friends—a Trappist monk named Brother Leo and J. Peter Grace of New York—founded the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation. Mrs. East was the sole member of the foundation. In 1948 she had willed thousands of acres of land to the Oblate Fathers and to the Catholic Diocese of Corpus Christi. The rest of her holdings were to be divided among relatives and ranch kin. But in 1960 she executed a new will leaving the bulk of her estate to the foundation. Then, shortly before her death, she named Brother Leo sole member of the foundation. Thus, by the time of her death in 1961, the ingredients were mixed for a chaotic, twenty-one-year legal process that brought forth more than 200 people claiming to be legitimate heirs. Ultimately, Brother Leo was cut out and the foundation began operations (1984) as the largest charitable foundation in South Texas.

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