Otis Hoffman and his wife, Eva, like most couples, always wanted children of their own, but fate denied them.
During their lives the couple accumulated a substantial estate, consisting of a large home in Warren and various oil and gas properties in Warren and McKean counties.
Before Otis died he wrote the following in his will:
"All of the said contingencies have occurred except the death of my wife Eva Miller Hoffman at her death without issue. I give and bequeath to the Commissioners of Warren County PA the entire former estate of said Nancy L. Hoffman as my interest therein may appear existing...for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a home for the poor and homeless children of Warren County. With right to sell and dispose of any and all property of said estate both real and personal for the purpose aforesaid and shall use the income and avails thereof for no other purpose."
Now, more than a century later, the wish of a childless couple to provide in perpetuity for the needs of local children is at the forefront of a political snarl.
We think that Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman would be appalled.
They placed their trust in an office that sways this way and that by political winds and made their estate susceptible to the broad interpretations of generations to follow. How could they have known?
We can only wonder whether they had imagined that the totality of the real estate and chattel they bequeathed for "poor and homeless children" might be lent to underwrite a school for children whose parents simply don't like their school district any more.
Maybe they would agree, but we only have their written words to go by.