After longtime St. John’s member Charles “Chink” Smithson sold his Fayetteville beer distributorship in 1978, he turned to his friend and accountant Charles vonRosenberg for help in setting up his estate. vonRosenberg, another longtime and active St. John’s member, agreed to help Smithson and his wife, Grace, with their plans.
One of the things that vonRosenberg, known affectionately around St. John’s as “VonR” before his death in 2005, convinced the Smithsons to do was to remember the church where they had been members since 1946 with a bequest from their estate. The Smithsons agreed to include such a bequest in their plans. Grace Smithson passed away in December 1984, and her husband’s death followed in May of 1985. The two were buried at Cavalry Episcopal Church in Tarboro, from which they had moved to St. John’s 40 years earlier.
Shortly after Chink Smithson’s death, assets from the Smithson estate began arriving at St. John’s and continued over the next several years. The vestry established the Smithson Fund for the benefit of the church, and when payments from the estate were completed in 1991, approximately $450,000 in unrestricted funds had been transferred to St. John’s.
The Kyle House Acquired
That same year, the Vestry learned that the Kyle House would be sold by the City of Fayetteville, which had purchased the building from the Kyle family in 1963 and used it for offices for the mayor and city administration. vonRosenberg and other church leaders recognized the value of this adjacent property to St. John’s, and the Vestry tapped the Smithson fund to meet the city’s purchase price of $250,000, adding another $26,000 for expenses and repairs to the structure.
The vestry also agreed to transfer approximately $24,000 in income each year from the Smithson Fund to the church’s Building Fund for the maintenance of the Kyle property and the rest of the church campus. The Smithson Fund also became known as the Smithson/Kyle Fund in 1991, as it was merged with a small fund called the Kyle Legacy that had been established in 1932.
Smithson Hall Dedication
Nearly 20 years later, the Vestry decided to tap the fund again in a major way again to finally settle the debt that had helped fund the major campus expansion that provided the multi-purpose room and preschool and other classrooms to the church in 2002. Debt service from that project had drained cash flow from the church’s operating budget for nearly 10 years, and the Vestry decided that a better use of funds would be to pay off the debt with endowment assets. In doing so, they voted to rename the multi-purpose room Smithson Hall.
The Smithson’s generous bequest to St. John’s is a glowing example of what planned giving can do to fund the mission of St. John’s for subsequent generations of parishioners. Without the forethought of people like Chink and Grace Smithson, the church probably would not have been able to acquire the Kyle property, whose building and grounds have become an integral part of parish life for the past 20 years. In an amazing example of stewardship, the Smithson’s original bequest is currently worth more today than the original $450,000 that passed to St. John’s despite having disbursed more than twice its original value.
In order to encourage and facilitate such far-sighted generosity, St. John’s established the Planned Giving Committee under the leadership of John Holmes.