Man bequeaths $1 million to Fairmont Salvation Army
Story by Craig Dirkes, writer/photographer for The Salvation Army Northern Division
The Salvation Army in Fairmont, Minn. has received a donation of epic proportions.
On Friday, attorney John Edman of Edman Law presented the Fairmont Salvation Army with a check for $1 million on behalf of the late Marlin Milbrandt (pictured).
Milbrandt was a lifelong resident of Martin County. He died on Jan. 14, 2017 at the age of 91.
Edman said Milbrandt gave to the Fairmont Salvation Army because he wanted his money to stay in his community.
“He wanted to have a local impact,” said Edman, who’d known Milbrandt for 40 years. “We’re a small community here; a $1 million donation is going to have a tremendous local impact.”
The Fairmont Salvation Army is evaluating how best to use Milbrandt’s surprise donation.
“Mr. Mildbrandt’s gift will allow the Fairmont Salvation Army to serve our community even better, and for many years to come,” said Major Dale Hixenbaugh (pictured), co-leader of the Fairmont Salvation Army. “We are grateful to Mr. Mildbrandt. Through his generosity, we will change lives.”
The truth comes out
Throughout the 1990s and mid-2000s, Milbrandt donated tens of thousands of dollars to local charities. But until now, almost nobody knew that the gifts had come from him.
“Marlin always gave anonymously,” said Edman, whose law office would write the checks on Milbrandt’s behalf. “Every year he’d give $5,000 or $10,000 to a few local charities.”
At one point, Edman warned Mildbrandt that he would spill the beans once Mildbrandt had passed on.
“I said, ‘When you die, I’m going to make this public,’” Edman recalled with a laugh. “Marlin scowled and said, ‘Well I guess that’s fine. I won’t know – I’ll be dead.’”
Mildbrandt spent much of his life working on his family’s farm in the nearby city of Welcome. He was an avid outdoorsman, a World War II veteran and historian, and a collector of Native American artifacts. He never married and he didn’t have kids.
“He was independent,” Edman said. “He had money, but he didn’t live high on the hog. He drove around in an old pickup.”
The Fairmont Salvation Army is one of five local charities to receive $1 million from Milbrandt’s estate.
“Marlin didn’t get personally involved with the charities he gave to, but he paid attention to them. He read their newsletters,” Edman said. “I think his secondary motivation for making these donations was to get other people thinking about what their own impact could be.”