Al and Helen
the Martin County Community Foundation received the largest single gift it
has ever received. It came from the estate of Al and Helen Friesenhengst.
This gift will create the Al and Helen Friesenhengst Endowment Fund for
. This unrestricted fund will begin
to make money grants to area charitable organizations in early 2007.
meeting with Al and Helenís daughter, Mary Nickless of Loogootee, she
shared a scrapbook giving us a glimpse into the lives of these two
remarkable citizens. This story will attempt to capture parts of their lives
that few of us knew.
are great for capturing memories. Smiles from a wedding day are remembered
in the pictures, and the stories in word. The stories seem to end when the
people in the scrapbook are no longer with us.
But Al and Helen Friesenhengstís legacy will never end, and the
smiles they shared in a scrapbook will be mirrored by the countless number
of people that have been, or will become, recipients of the generosity of
oldest of five siblings, and the son of German immigrants, Alís enormous
talents would ultimately propel him to a successful career as an
entrepreneur that few rival. While still in high school, Al earned the
respect of his fellow students by being elected as president of the student
council, drama club, along with numerous awards.
Al graduated from
in 1936. He had received a
scholarship enabling him to do so. The value of him receiving this
scholarship, and thus an education in business, which he vigorously applied,
became multiplied thousands of times throughout his career.
with his wife Helen, who was his business and life partner, they accumulated
retail store outlets in seven
towns, including Shoals and
Loogootee. Al and Helen passed on their business savvy to numerous
employees, many of whom eventually purchased and operated those stores after
Al and Helen began to exit the businesses. There are many pictures in the
scrapbook of events honoring employees and the passing of ownership of the
stores to them. In all cases Al and Helen and the employees are smiling
broadly, indicating the mutual respect and admiration they shared for each
the business side of Al and Helens life, there is a whole range of community
life that they were involved in. From investment in rental housing,
assisting in securing funding for industry expansion, and community
infrastructure improvement, and economic development, the Friesenhengst
brought instant credibility to many projects that are still thriving today.
Al was the first President of the Shoals Lions Club and the sponsor of the
Troop 80 Boy Scouts for 10 years, and Past Master of the White River Lodge
No. 332 F & AM of Shoals.
A. Deckard, a former MCCF Board Member, and Publisher of The Shoals News,
stated, ďThis nice gift to the Community Foundation is certainly a
continued example of the involvement of Al and Helen for the good of
. Al and Helen were acute business
people who always supported the important endeavors of the community. They
saw, within the foundation, an avenue to make good programs sustained.
people were very important to the
Friesenhengstís and this unrestricted fund gift will benefit many
generations. Their hard work and positive attitudes will be honored, and
played an enormous role in Al and Helenís life too. They shared their
beliefs with many through the
organization. As a gifted speaker
and motivator, Al traveled thousands of miles to help nurture and inspire
his fellow Christian brothers. Helen also was a tireless contributor of time
and talent to her faith.
the borders of
are many others on whom this
couple has had an influence. Through their many generous gifts several young
people have already received financial assistance through scholarships. Al
and Helen knew well the value of education and strived and succeeded in
passing on their good fortune to others.
and Helen also excelled in their family life. They adopted two sisters and
raised them as their own. People who do this are of the most caring and
giving of us all. Mary and her sister Nancy (deceased) grew up in a home
filled with love. Also their childrenís children, the 4 grandchildren and
6 great-grandchildren gave Al and Helen some of their greatest joy.
scrapbook records Alís death in 2000 and Helenís death in 2005. Many
times a persons story stops there, but with the twenty charitable
organizations that have received monetary gifts, and the numerous lives they
touched while with us, Al and Helenís successful legacy and influence will
Martin County Community Foundation is thrilled and honored that Al and Helen
remembered it with this gift, and pledge to act in accordance to the amazing
examples they set.
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