Small French Town Receives Big Gift
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
A small village in the French region of Brittany has found itself largely gifted. The gift, the legacy of a man named Francis Kerfers. He left the village of Mael-Carhaix in 1949 and never went back. But when Mr. Kerfers died this summer, he left his entire fortune to the town where he grew up: 1.4 million euros, about $1.6 million. That's more than the village's annual budget. We reached Jennifer Ford(ph) just outside Mael-Carhaix. She moved there with her family from London, and she told us about Mr. Kerfers and his gift.
Ms. JENNIFER FORD (Mael-Carhaix Resident): He's a chap who was born in Paris, who was orphaned very early on and was adopted and raised by a family in Mael-Carhaix in the '40s. He left for Paris once he reached adulthood and after the war actually went to work in Australia. 1950 or so he moved to New Caledonia. He invested wisely in property there and started up his own taxi company. And the first time actually the commune knew of any legacy that he wanted to make was in November 2002 when he contacted them and said, `Look, you know, I'd like to leave something,' because he had such warm and fond memories of the welcome he'd had in Mael-Carhaix.
BLOCK: Now when you say commune, you're talking about the town?
Ms. FORD: I'm talking about the town, yeah.
BLOCK: Where will all of the money then, this $1.6 million, from Mr. Kerfers go? How will it be used?
Ms. FORD: He had several clauses in his will actually, and he wants the money to go towards any aged old people who are in financial difficulty. The schools--there's a local state primary school and a private primary school in Mael-Carhaix--and it is also to be used for young student grants.
BLOCK: You've been talking, I believe, to the mayor of Mael-Carhaix. What did he say to you about this gift and what it means to him and to the town?
Ms. FORD: It's Christmastime. It's a lovely time for something like this to have happened. He's overwhelmed. Obviously he's had journalists and cameramen from all over France and overseas talking to him, but they have obviously never had a gift like this before.
BLOCK: Can you paint me a bit of a picture of the town?
Ms. FORD: It's a traditional little French town. It has a church in the middle. It has a little square around it. Opposite the church you have your baker. It's fairly sleepy. There's never a traffic jam. There are never more than 15 cars in the center of the town because there are not many of us here. It's very pretty, very welcoming place.
BLOCK: You know, Ms. Ford, this is such a heartwarming story, but I do wonder. There are always stories about fights over bequests and people who feel left out of--not getting their share of the pie. Do you worry that any of that might happen in Mael-Carhaix?
Ms. FORD: I don't. I genuinely don't. The money will be very well looked after and very well protected. And, of course, there will be plenty of applications for grants and help. But it is a very fair system in this area. Any family in difficulty is always helped by the commune, and this is just going to make the commune's job that much easier.
BLOCK: Well, a nice holiday story.
Ms. FORD: Absolutely.
BLOCK: Ms. Ford, thanks very much for talking with us.
Ms. FORD: You're very welcome.
BLOCK: That's Jennifer Ford talking with us about Francis Kerfers, who died this summer and left the village of Mael-Carhaix in Brittany his entire fortune, $1.6 million.
ROBERT SIEGEL (Host): This is NPR, National Public Radio.
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