Humane society gets grateful pet owner's $285,000 bequest

The Franklin County Humane Society has received a bequest of nearly $285,000 from the estate of a Frankfort dog lover who wanted to help the organization build a new shelter.

Jean Gravitt, who got all her pets from the Franklin County Humane Society, left her entire estate to the organization. Gravitt died last December, and her house was recently sold, allowing the humane society to receive the funds.

The humane society will host a ceremony commemorating the gift at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Gravitt's daughter, Jean Wheeler, said her mother and stepfather, Harold C. Gravitt, did not have any children together, and "they had both made a decision years and years ago to do this."

Harold Gravitt died in 2005.

Sam Marcus, president of the board of the humane society, said he did not know Jean Gravitt, but the group is grateful for her gift.

The existing shelter is more than 40 years old and sits in a flood plain, which has sometimes resulted in the animals having to be moved on short notice.

The facility was built to house about 100 animals but sometimes has had closer to 200, Marcus said.

"For years in Frankfort, we've talked about needing a new shelter," he said. "The big missing ingredient was the money."

He said Gravitt's gift will allow the humane society to begin planning the new facility, which could cost somewhere in the $2 million range.

The humane society also received a $77,000 grant last year from the PETCO Foundation, and it has $40,000 in its new building fund, Marcus said.

He said a capital campaign will be launched to raise the additional funding needed.

"My feeling is that the community has wanted this for so long, once there's an actual plan in place, the support will be there," Marcus said.

Jean Wheeler said she believes her mother and stepfather will be looking down on the project.

Wheeler said her mother always had a dog in her life.

Each time one of them died, Jean Gravitt always told her daughter that she wasn't going to get another one, but Wheeler said she always did.

"Mom called them her babies," Wheeler said. "When Harold passed away, she was awful lonely."

Wheeler, who has one brother, said that although her mother left her money to the humane society, she did receive something from the estate — a new pet.

The last dog Jean Gravitt adopted from the humane society was an energetic Jack Russell terrier and Australian shepherd mix named Emily.

"She's a sweetheart," Wheeler said.