ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A portion of the estate of a late Frackville area resident will provide a welcome financial boost to the region's Catholic elementary and high schools.
Under terms of Robert M. Mesch's will, six elementary schools in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown will each receive more than $100,000: McAdoo Catholic, McAdoo; Assumption BVM, Pottsville; St. Ambrose, Schuylkill Haven; Trinity Academy, Shenandoah; St. Jerome Regional, Tamaqua; and Our Lady of the Angels Academy, Lansford. St. Joseph Center for Special Learning, Pottsville, will also receive the same amount.
Mesch also bequeathed more than $400,000 each to Nativity BVM High School, Pottsville, and Marian High School, Hometown.
A resident of Laurel Ridge near Frackville and a native of Morea, Robert M. Mesch died Nov. 12, 2011, at the age of 80. He was a son of the late John and Leocadia Mreese Mesch, and was a 1948 graduate of Mahanoy Township High School.
He was a member of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Roman Catholic Parish, Mahanoy City, and was a member of the former St. Casimir Roman Catholic Church.
An Air Force veteran of the Korean War, he worked as a surveyor for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and also worked for Buckeye Pipeline, Ohio.
Philip J. Fromuth, diocesan secretary for education, expressed his gratitude for Mesch's generosity to Catholic education.
"On behalf of the Diocese of Allentown and the schools that will benefit from this bequest, I am so grateful for the generosity demonstrated by Mr. Mesch in remembering Catholic education in his will," Fromuth said. "With the ever increasing costs to operate Catholic schools, this significant gift will provide much needed financial support and resources for our schools, many of which are experiencing both enrollment and financial challenges."
Matt Kerr, diocesan communications director, said he was informed about Mesch's bequests in the summer. He said the exact amounts that will be given to the schools will be announced at a later date, although they will be more than $100,000 and $400,000 as noted in the media release.
"I don't know if exact numbers have been determined yet," he said.
Kerr said he was not aware of any stipulations or restrictions in the will on how the money could be used.
Elementary and high school administrators learned of the bequests earlier this year and have been making plans on for the money's use in their respective schools.
"We're very excited about it," said Kimberly Fetter, principal of Assumption BVM School. "We're very grateful about his thoughtfulness in his will."
Fetter said the first order of business will be the purchasing of 20 portable computers, although what type is still being considered.
"We don't know if we're going to do the 'tablets' or a combination laptop tablets," said Fetter. "We're looking at the Apple iPad and there is a new combination tablet-laptop from Droid. We're going back and forth on that. What we're looking at a classroom-sized mobile lab."
The remainder of the money will go into an endowment fund, according to Fetter.
"We're looking at the long-term viability of the school," she said. "So in the short-term, the children are going to benefit from the most recent technology, and in the long-term, the children will benefit from the long-term viability of the school. The endowments will be the gift that keeps on giving."
St. Joseph Center Principal Julia Leibensperger said no specific use for the funds has been determined except for one thing.
"Part of it will go into the endowment fund we have for St. Joseph Center," she said. "We started the fund several years ago to provide for tuition assistance."
Sister Mary Ann Spaetti, IHM, principal at Trinity Academy, has some ideas how the money could be used, although it still must be discussed with the school's Board of Pastors.
"I was just up in the computer room with the kids and we could really use some new systems," she said. "That may be something that we will explore. Again, with the economy the way it is, we don't want to use it all. Maybe we can put it into some kind of account that would accrue interest for tuition aid or something of that nature."
"That is something that I would suggest. We don't have an endowment fund, but maybe it is something that we should begin. We won't squander it. We will rejoice and put it to good use. It will be made with a group of people with some good advice."
Nativity Principal Lynn Sabol learned of the bequest in the spring, although it was later in the year when the approximate amount of $400,000 was learned.
"We're planning to use $100,000 of the money to repay a loan," said Sabol. "Another $100,000 is going to be used, if needed, for this current year for the operating budget. And the remainder will go into an endowment for the future of Nativity."
Sabol said the school has had sizable endowments received in the past, but they did have some restrictions of their use, such as for graduation awards.