Submitted by United Church of Ludlow - Photo by Ginny Kottkamp
On February 8 about 4:30 pm, the belfry of the United Church of Ludlow resounded with the pealing of the 1839 bell for a full three minutes. What was all the commotion about? The bell announced the victory of the United Church and thirteen other nonprofit organizations in the lawsuit brought against them by relatives of Phyllis Agan to nullify provisions in her trust, which left a total of $1.5 million to the collection of Ludlow institutions. Phyllis and Bill Agan were married by the United Church pastor in 1946; Phyllis was a dedicated and vitally active church member for over 50 years.
Bob Kottkamp, President of the United Church, and wife Ginny, had been in Superior Court in Woodstock for eight full days of trial. Twenty two other church members had been in the gallery for from one to eight days to signal to the jury their interest in Agan’s bequests. Church members, David Almond, Iggy Matulonis and Kottkamp had testified. Upon hearing the verdict upholding Phyllis’ magnanimous gifts, the Kottkamps drove to the church and rang the bell for as long as strength held out. Bob said, “Ringing the bell both expressed my joy and released physical tension built up over the long trial.”
Ray LaVanway, former treasurer, stopped his car to inquire of Ginny, “What is going on?” He later emailed: “I was going around the corner to Pleasant Street and have never heard the Church Bell rung so exuberantly in my life. Congratulations!”
”The following day, Bob Kirkbride, Phyllis Agan’s former voluntary guardian, who had been falsely accused of “undo influence” in Phyllis’ bequeathing decisions, but was exonerated by the verdict, reported an interesting happenstance. Marty Nitka told Bob that while walking near his office the day before, he had heard continuous bell ringing. Attorney Nitka had assisted Phyllis in preparing the amendment of her trust that left her wonderful legacy to Ludlow, and he too had testified in the trial.
While the Curran Family of Ohio and Michigan, who brought the suit, went home empty-handed, they may appeal the decision. In the mean time, there is great joy at the United Church and in much of Ludlow.