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Former Watertown police officer leaves $1 million legacy

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Former Watertown police officer Richard M. Banister is being described as a quiet, yet very generous man.

That is because he has left nearly $1 million total to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Jefferson County, Hospice of Jefferson County, First United Methodist Church and a friend, according to David A. Renzi, the attorney handling Mr. Banister’s estate.

Mr. Renzi said some documents have to be signed before some of the funds will be delivered. Like some of the beneficiaries, Mr. Renzi said he did not know Mr. Banister.

Hospice of Jefferson County never took care of Mr. Banister, but Chief Executive Officer Diana K. Woodhouse said he will forever be a part of the nonprofit agency.

Mr. Banister, who died in November 2012 at age 72, gave just over $224,000 to Hospice, which was an agency apparently dear to his heart, according to Mrs. Woodhouse.

“This was a generous gift from a man who led a very modest life,” Mrs. Woodhouse said. “We were totally surprised. I wish I had known him; he sounds like a quiet individual who cared for his community.”

Looking back in the agency’s records, Mrs. Woodhouse said Mr. Banister donated money to Hospice from 1994 to 2004, through the annual memory tree, in honor of his mother, Flora.

Through a letter from Mr. Renzi, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Jefferson County received $224,545.62. Executive Director Douglas J. Marlow said the funds the local SPCA will receive may have been a tribute to his mother as well.

Mr. Banister was an only child, Mrs. Woodhouse said.

The boards of directors of both the SPCA, 25056 Water St., and Hospice, 1398 Gotham St., will meet soon to decide how the funds will be spent.

“We will talk about this in our investment committee,” Mrs. Woodhouse said. “We have a strategic goal of continuing to grow our endowment. It is growing, and we are very pleased with the direction it has taken.”

When a Times reporter reached out to the First United Methodist Church, the Rev. Joyce M. Woodcock declined comment.

Meanwhile, Mr. Banister’s bequest is the second major gift Hospice has received within four months.

In November, the agency received a $200,000 bequest from the late Dr. David G. Gregor. Dr. Gregor, 84, a retired general surgeon, died Aug. 18. Mrs. Woodhouse said those funds have been put in the agency’s endowment, and to recognize Dr. Gregor and his love of animals, Hospice soon will begin a pet therapy program in his honor.

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