“Consider us in your estate planning” is a common appeal for nonprofits — and Stephanie Telleen took the idea to heart — the heart with which she loved her church.
When she died last October at 64, she surprised Mayflower Congregational Church, a congregation of the United Church of Christ, by bequeathing it her house and everything else she owned.
The house is a 1,320-square-foot 1930 cottage on NW 22 in the historic Linwood Place neighborhood. It and everything else amounted to a gift of just more than $500,000, according to a letter mailed to members by the Rev. Robin Meyers, senior minister.
Church members, in the congregational way, will vote Sunday after the 11 a.m. service at 3901 NW 63 to approve the sale of the house. It should be a brief congregational meeting — unless someone starts recollecting their late benefactor.
Actually, both could happen: Brief meeting, followed by longer visiting, also a congregational way.
The church is setting aside proceeds from Telleen’s gift in a separate account called the Stephanie Telleen Memorial Mission Fund, to be invested and managed exclusively for Mayflower missions, especially its medical mission in Nicaragua and 363 Group, which prepares and serves lunch to the poor and homeless every other Saturday at the Homeless Alliance at NW 3 and Virginia.
It’s a story of long-lasting mutuality, the kind that, in this case, not even death can sever. It’s one of the best kinds of church mutuality, even if I do say so myself — as a (full disclosure) former member of Mayflower and part-time pastor (Carrier Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ, near Enid).
I’m biased. It’s hard not to be.
“Many of you knew Stephanie Telleen, a quiet but indomitable woman who left her four brothers behind on their Iowa farm and moved to the ‘big city’ to start her life over again. She joined Mayflower and became a regular at 363, and WEBBS (Wednesday Evening Brownbag Book Study),” Meyers wrote in the letter.
She struggled with health issues that began at birth and fought cancer for several years, and “her dear friends at Mayflower were by her bedside when she died.”
Telleen was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa. She was a public school teacher and secretary in Iowa before moving to Oklahoma City in 1976. Here, she worked mainly as a paralegal, most recently with Cathcart & Dooley. Her survivors included her brothers in Iowa: Evan, Bruce, Brian and Jon.
“When her four brothers came to her memorial service they assumed that it would be to take her back to the farm in Iowa for burial — only to discover, in their words, that ‘her family was here, at Mayflower.’ Indeed, it was,” Meyers wrote. “Little did we know that Stephanie, who never married and had no children (except for her beloved cats), had left her entire estate to her church. And little did we know that her retirement accounts, savings, house and car represented a total gift of just over half a million dollars.”
The church is still working out how to disburse income from the Stephanie Telleen Memorial Mission Fund, how often and to whom, in addition to the medical mission and 363 Group.
“But for now, Stephanie’s gift is set aside and will be used exclusively to help fund the things that Stephanie loved about this church — its emphasis on helping others. We can think of no more fitting way to honor her life than to use her gift for this purpose,” Meyers wrote. “What a remarkable act of generosity, and what a wonderful legacy Stephanie leaves to help us do the real work of the church: to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God.”
He concluded, “Yes, I see you smiling and saying ‘Amen.’ ”