HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hugh W. Brown served in the U.S. Army, worked in insurance, and lived in Waikiki. He made Saint Augustine Church his second home.
"He came to church almost every day," Father Lane Akiona said.
Brown was a transplant from New York. In his late seventies, with his health failing, he sought legal help to divide his estate.
"He really saved. Considering that he didn't have immediate family, that was his problem, to whom to give," attorney Eduardo Zabanal said.
Before his death in December, 2010, Brown bequeathed more than a quarter of a million dollars to Hawaii's Catholic priests, brothers and nuns.
Sister Malia Dominica Wong is one of them. She calls it an "extraordinary, magnanimous gift and blessing."
Brown left it up to Zabanal and Zabanal's wife, Rose, to choose who would get the money. They used a list of names from the Hawaii Catholic directory and wrote letters.
Some recipients were skeptical at first, thinking it was a scam.
"A few weeks before I wrote the letter, all the priests had gone to a seminar, and they discussed about identity theft. So this thing was kind of fresh in their mind," Zabanal said.
They soon learned it was legitimate. Last December, the small fortune was divided equally among 293 recipients. Each of them got a check for $993.18.
Sister Malia said the sisters didn't keep their money because of their vows of poverty.
"As they opened the check, they just held it for a little precious moment," she said. "Then the reality comes. We turn it over. We sign our names. And then we give it over to our bookkeeper, so that it can go for the common good."
Brown wanted to bless those who blessed him, not knowing exactly who would benefit. But the Zabanal's do know. They've collected scores of thank you cards and letters.
"The nuns in particular are extremely grateful," Zabanal said.
"I'm just grateful that he was a member of our church, and that we were able to give him a sense of solace and consolation by worshiping with us," Father Akiona said.
Cancer killed Hugh Brown at the age of 78, but his kindness continues. And 293 Catholics can say amen to that.