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Published on November 29, 2006

Haish Legacy Continues with New Kishwaukee Community Hospital

November 29, 2006

Jacob Haish, an inventor and manufacturer of barbed wire known for his local philanthropy, died in 1926. Now, 80 years later, the intent of his last will and testament is finally being honored.

The $450,000 remaining in his estate will go toward construction of the new Kishwaukee Community Hospital.

Directors presented $90,000, the first of five annual payments, to the Kishwaukee Health Foundation Nov. 29.

“Eighty years is sufficient time to have his affairs taken care. This is the right project to fulfill the old gentleman’s wishes that this money be used to build a hospital for the community, “said John R.“Jack” Nelson, Haish corporation board president.

As a result of the donation to the new hospital, the Emergency Department will be called the “Jacob Haish Memorial Emergency Department.”

“We are honored to take our place in local history and be the third DeKalb institution to share the Haish name,” said Kevin Poorten, KishHealth System President and CEO.

“The Emergency Department is a fitting place for the name because it is the safety net for the uninsured or under-insured in our community. Jacob Haish not only wanted his estate used for a hospital. He also wanted to provide healthcare for the needy,” Poorten said.

The DeKalb Public Library and the former DeKalb Public Hospital (now Barb City Manor) were built with funds from the Haish estate.

Nelson said Haish specified in his will that his estate be used to build a hospital, to build a library, and to care for people in the DeKalb vicinity who could not afford healthcare.

Haish Memorial Library was built in 1930. From 1961-68, $526,000 was given to DeKalb Public Hospital to build and maintain the Haish Memorial wing. After DeKalb Public closed and Kishwaukee Community Hospital opened in 1975, money was returned to the Jacob Haish Memorial Corporation, Nelson said.

The corporation and its self-perpetuating board was established in 1952, and quietly over the years made grants totaling $2.5 million to projects board members felt satisfied the intent of Haish’s will.

Besides those already mentioned, charitable gifts were made in 1980, to the original Kishwaukee Community Hospital community drive and in 2000, to the hospital’s cardiac rehab atrium campaign.

Grants also were made to DeKalb Area (Oak Crest) Retirement Center; and to TriCounty Community Health Center, Children’s Learning Center (CLC), and DeKalb Community Coordinated Child Care (4Cs) and, all for health-related needs of the low income. Requests from low income individuals for assistance with healthcare needs also were funded, Nelson said.

In addition to the $450,000 for KCH, the Haish corporation board has specified phase-out grants to 4Cs and CLC over the next five years, Nelson said. The DeKalb County Community Foundation is handling the payouts and is continuing to invest the remaining funds.

Once board members decided they wanted to put themselves out of business by pledging the remaining funds to the new hospital project, the next step was filing a cy pres petition, asking the court to concur that the use of the money followed the intent of Haish’s last will and testament.. DeKalb County Circuit Court Judge Kurt Klein ruled in favor of the petition Aug. 8.

Cy pres is French and means “as close as possible.” Gary Cordes, Haish corporation attorney, said the cy pres doctrine governs gifts made by wills and trusts for charitable purposes. When the named recipient of the gift does not exist or no longer exists, then the estate must make the gift to an organization which comes as close as possible to the intent, and the court must concur.

The Jacob Haish Memorial Corporation has filed several cy pres petitions over the years to follow the intent of the will if not the literal purpose, Cordes said.


About the Jacob Haish Memorial Corporation

  • 19 DeKalb residents have served on the board since 1952.
  • There have only been three presidents.:
    • Ray Nelson, former assistant county farm agent, served on the board for 17 years, 11 as president.
    • C. Edward Raymond, former owner/publisher of the Daily Chronicle, served on the board for 47 years, 31 as president.
    • Ray’s son John “Jack” Nelson, president of DeKalb Poultry Association, now retired, is the current president. He has served on the board for 33 years, 12 as president.
  • Current board members are Marjorie Lehan, Dianne Thomas Schmitt, Patricia Elsner, Gordon Melms, Karen Mason and Frank Roberts. Sharon Stefani has been board secretary for 34 years.
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