Father Tom and A Sense of Humour

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The web is loaded with stories about weird clauses in wills that defy common sense. Some of them are funny. Some are not.

One story told of an uncle who left his entire estate to an Elvis impersonator. Another lady left most of her money to a local donkey sanctuary while comedian Jack Benny inserted a clause that stipulated that a rose would be delivered to his wife every day for the rest of her life. Billionaire Leona Helmsley left instructions for $4 billion fortune to be spent caring for her dogs. And, finally, a Portuguese aristocrat left his considerable fortune to 70 strangers randomly chosen from a Lisbon phone book.

Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.

What precipitated this train of thought? Well, my March column featured a story on Father Tom Hiscock who passed away in 1950 in Catalina. In his will, he left a bequest for the diocese to establish a pension fund for retired clergy. And, as the Rev’d Fred Marshall pointed out, this legacy has lasted for 73 years.

After my article was published I received a note from Bishop David Torraville who commented that he had just read my piece on Father Tom, and laughed saying that it brought back a wonderful memory of a story. This is what he wrote:

Mom and Dad were in Catalina in the 70‘s and I would visit occasionally. On one visit we were sitting with Clayton Bursey. Father Tom’s death came up and Clayton had a story to tell. His father must have been a pallbearer at Father Tom’s funeral. According to Clayton, Father Tom left a note with money. A particular lady was to make her fruit cake, a gentleman was to take the train to Clarenville to pick up a bottle of rum. The pallbearers were to dig the grave, and after the funeral, were to eat the cake, drink the rum and sing, “For he’s a jolly good fellow.”

Clayton said they ate the cake and drank the rum, but thought it disrespectful to sing, so they quietly recited, “For he’s a jolly good fellow.”

It must have been Clayton’s father’s story but Clayton told it with such joy and if it’s true, it shows a wonderfully playfulness in Father Tom.

Well, if indeed the story is true, it must have caused quite a chuckle at the time of Father Tom’s funeral.

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