By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News
John Pullis recalls standing in the parking lot of the Henry County Court House when an attorney approached him with the news that the Conservation Department was named as a beneficiary to a large estate.
Pullis, the Executive Director of the department, said he first received a $5,000 check, and upon first thought considered it a sizable memorial from George and Imogene Nuding ? a couple whom he had never met.
Then the attorney, Jeff Thomas with Bainter and Thomas Law Firm, approached Pullis again, saying the entirety of the contribution from the estate was $250,000.
Money like that had Pullis? wheels turning. The Conservation Department definitely had new projects they wanted to tackle and with money like that building could commence.
Several years after the Nudings died ? George first, then Imogene in 2012 ? the frames of two cabins stand sturdy overlooking the lake at the Henry County Conservation Department. Pullis hopes that once the cabins are prepared for visitors this fall, the Conservation Board will vote to name them in honor of the Nudings, whose financial contribution made it possible.
?It would be cool if we named the cabins after them ? Imogene and George?s cabins,? Pullis said as he stood in the middle of what will be the kitchen of one of the cabins.
?They lived all their lives in Henry County,? Thomas said, speaking as the Nuding?s attorney. ?You see that with some longtime residents. They may not always be out there paddling on the water or staying at the camp sites, but they appreciate the hard work put into the department.?
George served in the Coast Guard before he and Imogene made their home in Mt. Pleasant. A farmer by trade, George had a deep appreciation for the land and was always a conservationist, Thomas said.
Jared Hills, the Nuding?s executor, knew the couple since he was 10 years old when George was going door to door looking for house painting jobs to make some cash.
George was a self-made man, Hills said. Coming to Iowa on the orphan trains, he started life with very little, but was a good business man and a hardworking, careful investor.
?They both lived a very frugal life,? Hills said, adding that no one would have ever guessed the size of their estate.
Although Imogene died in 2012, Thomas has been patiently waiting to find buyers for parcels of the Nuding?s land to maximize the benefit to charities like the Henry County Conservation Department and the Henry County Health Center. Part of Imogene?s holdings included the land where McDonald?s sits on S. Grand Ave. and where the new Dollar Tree and sporting goods store opened last year.
?There was a couple of million dollars involved,? Thomas said. ?Basically, they left it to charity. It?s nice to have a legacy here like that in Henry County to remember them.?
Pullis is thankful that legacy extends to the Conservation Department, where the new cabins will have more amenities and room than the other two the department currently rents out.
With two miles of looped trails, wildlife, the Nature Center, fishing and a bird rehabilitation center, Pullis hopes the cabins will be a draw for those passing through town or visiting family.
The Conservation Board has yet to set a rental price for the cabins.
While there are still a few months before those cabins will be outfitted with a heating and air conditioning unit and satellite TV, two established cabins, just as cozy, are ready for summer occupants.
The cabins were built in 2006 and ?put together like Lincoln Logs,? Pullis said.
Although summer draws 50 percent of their occupancy, Pullis prefers the cabins in the winter when the leaves are off the trees and geese can be seen flying over the Skunk River.
Following the finishing touches on the two new cabins, Pullis is concerned that the Conservation Department is developing so much they are losing the natural environment. Even with a five-year plan to continue building, he isn?t sure how much more they can develop without affecting the natural feel of the 108 acres of land.
Nevertheless, progress continues in the scenic nature area and will be preserved for generations to come thanks to generous donations by people like the Nudings.