SOUTH BRISTOL (AP) – A Louisiana woman who spent summers in South Bristol has left the town $9 million in her will.

Ann Wilder Stratton, who died July 19 at the age of 80, visited the family’s home on the S Road into the 1980s. Even after she sold the family property and gave the family owned Hodgdons Island to the Damariscotta River Association, she continued sending $1,000 “property tax” checks to the town.

During her time in town, Stratton developed an affection for the people of this fishing port of 800. Still, townspeople were flabbergasted upon learning that she had bequeathed a third of her $28 million estate to the community.

Beverly Eugley got the call in August from an attorney in Shreveport, La., who told her about Stratton’s gift. At first, Rice and others didn’t believe it.

They all knew of Stratton and her family, which first bought property here in 1904. Over the years, Stratton – who was known for wearing colorful, wide-brimmed hats – developed friendships with a number of local residents.

But no one had a clues she would leave the town such a staggering amount.

“It gave me a funny feeling when I was told,” Rice said. “At first I didn’t believe it.”

Stratton’s estate, which probably won’t be settled for at least another year, will be divided equally among South Bristol, the Community Foundation of Shreveport-Bossier, and Wells College in New York.

Selectmen said they will recommend that interest on the money be used to lower property taxes and to obtain shorefront land for a town park and boat launch.

Officials said they will not recommend using the principal to offset the municipal, school and county budget, which will be about $2.4 million this year.

“I think that (offsetting the budget) would be a bad mistake,” said Chester Rice, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. “Putting the money away and spending the interest will benefit generations of residents. It should keep taxes in check for a very long time.”

Voters at the Town Meeting in March will be asked to accept the $9 million gift. Once the money is accepted, selectmen will recommend that it be invested.

“It’s a gift to the people of South Bristol, but it’s our intention to make sure it keeps on giving in perpetuity,” said Selectman Don Stanley.

Stratton was a year-round resident of Shreveport, where she was known as an avid government watchdog.

An obituary in the Shreveport Times called Stratton, a former social worker, a champion of the people. The mayor of Shreveport declared July 13, just six days before her death, as Ann Wilder Stratton Day in recognition of her community involvement.

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