A House, A Road and A Legacy of Generosity

MLK StatueIn Mosaic's month of gratitude, we are thankful for the many donors who have generously supported the mission. This story originally appeared in Mosaic's magazine seven years ago. I was able to meet Donald Grundahl once before he died and, even weak and approaching death, he was kind in word and ready to laugh.

Donald Grundahl lived a simple life as a Minnesota farmer and once wrote that he tried to pattern his life after the quote, "Let me live in the house by the side of the road and be a friend to man." He was successful — Grundahl was a great friend to all whom he met and his generous nature was evident in the nearly $2 million in charitable gift annuities and estate gifts he gave to support Mosaic's ministry.

Grundahl, along with his brother Conrad (who also was generous to Mosaic with a nearly $360,000 estate gift) first learned of Mosaic's legacy organization, Bethphage, through his grandmother. With his unique mix of Swedish and Minnesotan, that always came out pronounced, Betfoge.

"Donald's grandmother, Mary Chelgren, was a Sunday School teacher and taught both her grandsons to save their pennies and nickels for those individuals with disabilities at Bethphage Mission in Axtell," said Joe Solomon, a development officer at Mosaic. "Those lessons were imbedded in the thoughts and actions of the Grundahl brothers as they grew up."

Solomon remembers vividly his first meeting with Grundahl.

"As I'm sure is common in most small town restaurants, the voices hushed and all heads gave a quick, careful inspection of me as I strode in the front door," Solomon said. "Donald immediately came up from the back of the restaurant and greeted me with an infectious smile, a warm handshake and a 'Hello, Mr. Solomon.'"

When asked how he knew how the visitor was the man he was expecting, Grundahl's response showed his common sense and his sense of humor: "You're early, you're wearing a tie, and you have a briefcase — three things that no one in this town is famous for."

Before he left the restaurant on that first visit, Solomon was introduced to almost everyone there, including the cook, the dishwasher and the woman who baked the pies. He also learned about their histories.

"Donald had a great memory for people and the facts of their lives and, boy, did he love to visit with them," Solomon said. "His eyes, ears and heart also served him extremely well for his entire life."

From that first meeting, Solomon felt a true affection and friendship grow with this man who had an evident love for life and a perennial smile for others, broken only by bursts of laughter as he shared jokes and stories. Solomon said that in the nine years he knew Grundahl, he never heard the same Sven, Ole and Lena joke twice. That same sense of humor helped him keep a good attitude as he aged. Solomon remembers Grundahl routinely saying he was "good enough to pay taxes for another year" after his medical checkups.

Simplicity was the model in Grundahl's life. He didn't furnish his home with fine things or believe that just because something was old and worn, it needed to be replaced. Solomon noted the simplicity of Grundahl's home on his first visit. The farm house had one lone picture hanging on the wall. It depicted a farmhouse, similar to Grundahl's, near a road, the image of the life Grundahl wanted to live:

Let me live in the house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.

"This picture is how I believe Donald viewed his life and how I am certain we all viewed Donald," Solomon said.

Until he was 87 and moved into assisted living, Grundahl lived all of his life on the farm. The rural church in which he was baptized and confirmed, Stockholm Lutheran in Cokato, was the same church from which he was buried in 2008. For this man who could easily quote chapter and verse from the Bible, it was his faith, inherited through his family and lived through his church, that inspired his life.

"Donald Grundahl may have been a small slight man but he cast a huge shadow of Christian love and service to others," Solomon said. "We were all blessed to know Donald and trust that he inspired other caring persons to also 'live in a house by the side of the road and be good friends to men.'"

Mosaic is grateful for such friends.

Learn more about Mosaic's planned giving services by contacting Jaime Corsar at 402.896.3884, Ext. 31106 or jaime.corsar@mosaicinfo.org.

A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Mosaic a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I give [specific dollar amount, description of specific property, all the residue, or a percent of the residue] to The Mosaic Foundation, Omaha, Nebraska, a non-profit Nebraska corporation, to (select one):

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to Mosaic or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Mosaic as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Mosaic as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and Mosaic where you agree to make a gift to Mosaic and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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