Russ Skurr recalls how his friend, the late Dennis Valstad, went to see a play on Valentine’s Day a few years ago out at CJ’s at the Wayside.

   “It was about a bunch of people getting hit by a bus and whether they went to heaven or not,” Russ said.

   According to friends, the 69-year-old was a man of deep conviction, one who lived out his faith daily, in his church and in the world.

   Even so, “Dennis was deeply impacted by” the play, Russ said. “I’m just wondering if those guys had anything to do with him making a will as generous as it was?”

   Just after Valentine’s Day 2017, Dennis contacted an Oshkosh law firm to make a revision to his last will and testament.

   No one knew he’d made the change.

   Not when Dennis suffered a terrible stroke in early July.

   Not when he passed away Saturday, July 13 at the UW Hospital in Madison.

   And certainly not when the 300 or so attended his visitation, funeral and/or burial July 19 and 20.

   Then letters started filling mailboxes a couple weeks ago.

   Helga Rikkers was “shocked” when she opened the envelope from Young & Maslowski, Attorneys at Law.

   “I read the letter and I couldn’t even decipher it in my mind if I was reading that right,” she said.

   The letter read, “The decedent’s Last Will & Testament ... names you as a beneficiary due to your attendance at his visitation, funeral and/or burial ...”

   Specifically, Dennis set aside a half-million dollars of his estate to be divided between anyone who attended any of those services to honor his life.

Read the full story with information about why he might have taken this unusual step, and how friends reacted, in the Sept. 12, 2019 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.