San Luis Obispo resident Greta Kraum bequeathed the largest donation in San Luis Obispo County Animal Services history to the organization, stipulating in her will that the money go toward programs for the adoption, spaying and neutering of pets.
Animal Services received the gift last week and is in the process of deciding how to most effectively use the funds.
The $310,000 donation came as a surprise to Animal Services manager and veterinarian Eric Anderson. Before Kraum’s death on June 25, 2013, Anderson had never met her and knew nothing of her generous plans to donate funds to the organization.
“I genuinely wish we’d had the opportunity to express to Ms. Kraum herself our gratitude,” he said. “In her absence, the best we can do is to honor what her true intent was, which was to give some genuine benefit to our animals. So that’s the direction we’re seeking with this. We’re very thankful.”
Animal Services will take its time deciding how to spend the money according to Kraum’s instructions, Anderson said.
“We want to do something we think will respect Ms. Kraum’s wishes and objectives and create a lasting substantial impact,” Anderson said. “This is unique enough of a gift to represent a significant and singular opportunity. We want to handle it very judiciously, in a way that really puts her generosity and intentions to effect.”
Animal Services provides adoption services as well as those related to lost pets, treating injured animals and providing educational programs about humane treatment of animals, public safety and responsible pet ownership.
The organization is considering using Kraum’s donation to establish a low-cost spaying and neutering program.
“It would create more of a lasting and regenerative program to benefit animals in our community in a more long-term sense,” Anderson said.
Once plans are drawn up for the program and it’s implemented, Anderson said he hopes others in the community will be motivated to make donations to help it last.
“This is a very unique situation for us,” he said. “I have no recollection of anything even approaching this size.”
While Kraum’s donation to Animal Services was one of her final interesting surprises, it was certainly not her first.
According to a short biography about Kraum compiled by her friends, she was born in 1929 in London. As a girl during World War II, she spent her days picking up shrapnel with rubber gloves in her backyard and nights sleeping in underground bomb shelters.
Kraum’s parents eventually sent her on the “Children’s Train” to live with a family residing in the safer countryside. Kraum spent several unhappy months there before returning to London, where she waited out the remainder of the war.
A few years later, Kraum crossed the Atlantic Ocean to tour Canada and the United States. The tour was slated to last four months, but for Kraum, it never ended.
In her 40s, Greta was working as a secretary in Santa Monica when she met her husband, Manly. They moved to Marin County and then to Cambria in the 1980s, where the couple lived for 12 years. Finally, they moved to San Luis Obispo, where they spent the rest of their lives.
They kept an animal-friendly home throughout their marriage with numerous bird feeders in the garden and two dogs named Jesse and Jessica, the biography said. Kraum would ask the same question of every dog-walker who passed her yard: “Can I give your dog a treat?”
Walter Weller, a family friend and executor of Greta’s estate, said he also remembers the Kraums as avid pet-lovers.
“She and Manly both had many dogs through their lives,” he said. “They really were lovers of animals.”
Although Kraum did not keep a pet in her last 10 years, she maintained an unmistakable affection for them and consistently donated money to local animal facilities, Weller said.
Manly Kraum died at 86 of cancer in 2010. Greta Kraum fell ill a few years later at age 83, at which point Weller suggested she leave her savings to Animal Services so her love for animals could continue even after her life could not.
“I don’t know if I talked her into donating the large sum,” Weller said. “But she was on board and in agreement.”
Kraum stipulated how the money would be spent because “he didn’t want the whole amount to go toward fixing the highway in front of the building or something,” Weller said.
In addition to her donation to Animal Services, Kraum bequeathed $5,000 to both Guide Dogs for the Blind and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Weller said Kraum loved San Luis Obispo County and had always wanted to give back to the area. In her will, she was able to do just that.