Bequest will add wing to Animal Control

Published 5:27 pm Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sheriff Joe Underwood, attorney Bill LaBre and Animal Control Director Mike Grice (Daily Star Photo/JOHN EBY)

CASSOPOLIS — Edwardsburg attorney William LaBre was a sight to rival Santa Thursday night, for when he opened his briefcase, it contained a $215,146.95 check he presented to Animal Control Director Mike Grice and Sheriff Joe Underwood, whose office oversees the shelter.

The tidy sum will go a long way towards expanding the shelter and comes as a bequest from two sisters, Gloria LaPointe and Katherine Molica.

LaBre told commissioners about the childless sisters who were lifelong area residents.

The LaPointes lived in Berrien County, but Gloria’s husband, Donald, managed Dowagiac Municipal Airport.

“Gloria was also extraordinarily involved with the Miss Michigan pageant,” LaBre said, “and many other forms of beauty pageants throughout the state and locally. She did that not only because of her own appreciation of beauty, but also her care for the young ladies and gentlemen. Untiringly helping her was her sister, Katherine. They tried very hard to make sure that all the children they affected through these pageants were enriched by what they could give them. They were also very involved in their church, St. John’s over in Niles. Phillip was a resident here in Cass County on Diamond Lake. He was a railroad worker, and before that, a veteran. He served in World War II from its beginning to its end in the South Pacific. One of the most unique pictures I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing was a huge picture of him in uniform, standing next to his bride, Kay.”

“Gloria lost her husband about 10 years ago,” LaBre continued. “Phillip lost his wife about eight. All they had left was each other. When they came to see me, their concern was simple and straightforward in drafting their wills. What they had done in their lifetimes they wanted to continue at the time of their death. That was to help their church, the Cancer Service and people who were dying of cancer, and to help their communities. They gave away all of their joint money to insure it would help their church and the residents of this county. In doing that, that ended up becoming $215,000 for Animal Control. Because of the extraordinary generosity of them while they were alive and in their death, I now have the pleasure and the privilege of presenting to Mike and to Joe this check in the amount of $215,146.95.”

“On behalf of Cass County,” the sheriff said, “I want to thank Bill for all the work he did putting this together and taking time out this evening to come here. He’s put in a lot of extra hours. This benefits not only Cass County, but also Berrien County.”

County commissioners Dec. 2 committed the bequest from the estate of “longtime supporters” Phillip Frederick Molica and Gloria Caroline LaPointe to Animal Control.

Grice made a presentation on the 2,000-square-foot wing Animal Control needs to add to the 1997 shelter on M-62 East near the Sheriff’s Office.

“One problem we’re running into,” Grice said, “is the shift in our state where we’re handling more cats than dogs, and we’re obsolete for cats,” of which there were 7,510 felines and 6,053 canines brought in 2005-2010.

“We do not have the space needed for the number of cats we’re handling and state requirements are changing,” Grice said.

Commissioner Bob Wagel, R-Wayne Township, said Mrs. LaPointe often escorted state queens to national contests, including to Las Vegas.

“I told her a good friend of mine, actor Don Galloway (July 27, 1937-Jan. 8, 2009, 71, in Reno) was going to be one of the judges, so she should tell him hi, and she did.”

Galloway, best known as Raymond Burr’s protege, Det. Sgt. Ed Brown on “Ironside” (1967-1975), reprised the role for a 1993 made-for-TV reunion. He and Wagel grew up together in Kentucky.

He began his acting career in New York in the 1950s on the soap opera “The Secret Storm” as Kip Rysdale. In 1985, he joined the cast of the ABC soap “General Hospital” as Buzz Stryker until 1987.

Galloway was also a Libertarian who wrote a column for the Manchester, N.H., Union Leader newspaper.