Count your blessings and do your part

Monday, December 11, 2006

Cliff Luther wasn't the kind of guy you wanted to mess with.

Luther, a lifelong Custer County resident, made his money buying, selling and renting property, and if you were on his good side, he could be generous to the point of forgiving debts.

If you were on his bad side, well, you didn't want to be on his bad side.

Former neighbor Tom Mayo, who was a deputy sheriff at the time, got on Cliff's bad side, and feels lucky to live to tell about it.

First Luther put out a contract to kill Mayo, and, when the killer backed out, hired another hit man to kill the first one and burn down his house.

That earned Luther an arson conviction, added to the third-degree sexual assault conviction that sent him to jail in the 1980s, and his contempt of court conviction for accosting a Custer County judge.

Those who knew him were amazed, then when the found out he had left half a million dollars to the Salvation Army.

There must have been a soft heart somewhere underneath all of that rough exterior.

His attorney and niece say he wanted to help underprivileged children and elderly in the area, and decided on the Salvation Army after his niece suggested it.

Lest you think the organization is flush, however, think again. Half a million dollars is a lot of money, but it's in the form of an endowment fund that generates about $24,000 in interest to be spent in the Custer County area each year.

We know that doesn't put a dent in all of the needs of that area, let alone the rest of the state, considering the services the Salvation Army provides.

The most obvious include emergency services with financial and material needs such as rent, food, utility bills, clothing, furniture and transportation. But the Salvation Army provides a wide array of other services in our area and around the country, such as casework and counseling youth services, rehabilitation, senior center and many others.

The Salvation Army, one of the agencies supported by your United Way contribution, is only one of the giving opportunities that present themselves at this time of the year, when most of us are spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars on ourselves and our loved ones.

But if someone with arson and assault convictions can have a generous heart, how about the rest of us?

The next time you pass the red bucket, count your blessings and do your part.

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