By Harley Nefe
The Town of Beech Mountain Police Department, the Beech Mountain Volunteer Fire Department and the Avery County Humane Society were the beneficiaries of a generous bequest from the estate of Reuben and Barbara Mooradian.
Checks were presented to the three beneficiaries by Attorney Anthony di Santi representing the Mooradian estate on March 10 at the Beech Mountain Town Council meeting. The Beech Mountain Volunteer Fire Department received $400,000 and the Beech Mountain Police Department and the Avery County Humane Society both received $300,000.
“About a year ago, Barbara called me when she was in the hospital, and she explained that she left everything to Reuben, but Reuben predeceased her, and she wanted to do him well,” said di Santi at the Town Council meeting. “I met with her, and she was very adamant that she wanted her estate to go to the Beech Mountain Volunteer Fire Department, the Beech Mountain Police Department and the Avery County Humane Society.”
di Santi further said, “Over the last year, I’ve been working to locate the assets for Barbara and what they had, and quite frankly, I was surprised by the estate that she left for the benefit of these three charities.”
Avery Humane Society Executive Director Gwynne Dyer accepted the check presented to them.
“This bequest will have a significant impact on our ability to care for vulnerable animals in our community,” Dyer said. “The Mooradians understood the joy animals bring into the lives of individuals and families, and they wanted to ensure that animals in need could receive the food, shelter, medical care and love they need until they are able to go home with a family. We are so thankful for their compassion for animals and for their generous gift.”
Reuben Mooradian was born in North Attleboro Massachusetts on Feb. 20, 1930. He attended the University of Missouri and enlisted in the United State Army in July of 1952, serving in the 8240th Unit, United Nations Partisan Forces in Korea. Reuben then served two tours of duty in Vietnam and retired as a Lt. Colonel in the Special Forces in 1971.
di Santi said he got to know the Mooradians well about 46 years ago as Reuben and him both were retired military and became friends over that. di Santi also spent a lot of time in Beech Mountain, and Reuben and his wife Barbara moved to Beech Mountain in 1969 after living in Fort Bragg. The Mooradians were active residents and members of the Beech Mountain community for many years.
Long time Beech Mountain resident Jim Brooks who is fire department Board president, said the Mooradians were a big part of town, as they would participate in things that went on in the community and embodied the Beech Mountain spirit.
“There are a bunch of people in the community that knew Reuben because Reuben and I were around when the Avery and Watauga Fire Associations were started,” Brooks said. “He was an integral part of the Avery and Watauga Fire Associations.”
Reuben was a founding member of the Beech Mountain Volunteer Fire Department, and he also served as Fire Chief from 1974 -1995 as a State Certified Firefighter II and a hazardous materials certified responder.
Reuben also served as a town council member for over 10 years and served as the first Mayor Pro Tem.
Barbara served as the Town Clerk for a number of years and in her tenure implemented the Town’s addressing system.
The Mooradians also had a passion for animals, and always had one or more dogs in their care. One of their favorite breeds were Weimaraners.
While the money is definitely important for both the Beech Mountain Police Department and Fire Department as well, the Avery County Humane Society, which relies entirely on private donations, grants and limited income amounts, already has some ideas in mind for how to utilize the $300,000 gift, which include:
- Help house, feed and care for more than 600 animals
- Provide low cost or free spay and neuter services to the public, reaching approximately 500 animals and spaying or neutering an additional 420+ animals at the shelter.
- Care for 350 stray animals, reuniting them with their families or finding them a new forever family.
- Save the lives of at least 50 animals who are transferred from nearby shelters where they would be euthanized within days due to space limitations.
- Support their partnership with Mountain View Correctional Institution through New Leash on Life, a 10-week program that engages eight inmates to train more than 20 dogs each year.
Funding such as this keeps the Avery County Humane Society from ever having to euthanize healthy animals that arrive at the shelter and helps inform the community about the animals that need homes. The humane society currently has an adoption rate of 94 percent, which is one of the highest figures in the state. The humane society also has the distinction of being the only organization in Avery County that offers services for homeless animals. The county does not have animal control services and is not able to offer funding for the humane society’s shelter.
The upkeep of public safety is also included in this generous donation from the Mooradian estate. The Town of Beech Mountain Police Department did not list any exact details of what they will do with their money yet; however, any additional funding for rural police departments is helpful.
The Beech Mountain Volunteer Fire Department board plans to make sure the monies received are used for recruitment and retention and to benefit the volunteer members of the department. The Beech Mountain Fire Department, like most other volunteer fire crews, receives a bulk of its funding from event fundraisers, contributions from support organizations and donations such as the Mooradian estate.
At the end of her life, Barbara was home bound and in failing health, so each day members of the police department would check on her, as well as visiting with when she was in the hospital. She lived at home with a beloved Goldendoodle named Sandy.
“Animal companions make a huge difference in our lives, and Sandy did that for Barbara,” Dyer said. “While she may have been isolated, she was not alone. Studies have shown that animals have a positive effect on physical and mental health, they offer emotional support and can reduce fear, especially for a person like Barbara, an elderly woman living alone.”
Upon the passing of Barbara, the Mooradian estate bequeathed the donation checks.