Bay City vet who froze left hospital a fortune

Bill was unpaid; electricity was off

BY ZLATI MEYER • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER • February 5, 2009

A 93-year-old Bay City man who was about $1,000 in arrears on his electric bill when he froze to death in his home has left a fortune estimated at $600,000 to a hospital.

In an Oct. 1976 photo provided Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009 by the Walworth family, Marvin Schur is shown with his wife Marian. Schur froze to death inside his Bay City, Mich., home just days after the municipal power company restricted his use of electricity because of unpaid bills. From AP Photo by AP.Marvin Schur, whose death shocked the nation last month, bequeathed all his money to Bay Regional Medical Center, attorney Cathy Reder said Wednesday, though she declined to confirm the amount. Schur’s nephew William Walworth told CNN his uncle had saved more than $600,000, and Schur had cash attached to unpaid bills when he died.

The news came the day Michigan officials unveiled emergency rules to stave off more winter heat and electricity cutoffs.

However, the new Michigan Public Service Commission rules do not apply to municipal utilities like Bay City, which placed a limiter on the World War II veteran’s electric meter that cuts the power after a certain predetermined usage. A note about the device was left on Schur’s front door, but it is unclear whether he was aware of the device.

His frozen body was found Jan. 17 in his bedroom, dressed in a coat and multiple layers of clothing. There was ice in the kitchen sink and on the inside of the windows of the home when a neighbor discovered the body.

The discovery was made four days after Bay City Electric Light & Power placed the device restricting his electricity usage because he owed the utility more than $1,000. His phone service also had reportedly been cut off.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Tuesday that she wants to change state law so rules preventing heat and electricity cutoffs apply to municipal utilities as well.

“The irony of the whole thing is he was a medic in the Army saving lives,” Walworth told the Free Press in a phone interview from his Florida home. “He led a nice life, except for his tragic ending. With his contribution to the hospital, he’ll still be helping people save lives. He’ll be doing it in death.”

Neither Reder nor Walworth knew why Schur chose Bay Regional Medical Center.

Schur worked for a tool and die factory in the Bay City-Saginaw area, and was an ardent money-saver who was able to retire around age 52, Walworth said.

“He was a simple man; he was a very frugal man,” the nephew said, pointing out that Schur learned to be thrifty because he grew up during the Great Depression. “To be honest, I don’t think he ever went to any restaurants.”

Walworth denied some media reports that his uncle had mental lapses: “If he had dementia, then he wouldn’t have put on three layers of clothing, and he wouldn’t have put on his oven to heat his house. Someone who has dementia would’ve just froze.”

A hearing to determine a personal representative for Schur’s estate is scheduled for March 17 in Bay County Probate Court, according to Reder.

Reder refused to discuss any potential civil suits against the Bay City utility or city officials, citing an ongoing investigation by Michigan State Police and the state Attorney General’s Office.

“It depends on what the investigation concludes, whether or not there is anything there to be pursued. Time will tell whether there will be any further litigation on behalf of the estate,” she said.

But Walworth is bitter about how his uncle died.

“I’m just appalled at the city, to turn off his utilities; it’s unheard of around here,” he said. “It was a horrific death.”

Contact ZLATI MEYER at zmeyer@freepress.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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