Never Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth

Posted: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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How does a former Mitchell, South Dakota cop, earning less than 20 bucks an hour, end up deciding how to spend the multi billion dollar fortune of New York’s notorious “queen of mean,” Leona Helmsley?   Well, it’s one of the perks of being the late hotelier’s grandson.
32 year old Walter Panzirer is one of four children born to Helmsley’s only son, Jay, who died in 1982 at the age of 42.Panzirer apparently never mentioned his famous relative during his four years on the force in Mitchell. According to the Mitchell Daily Republic, it only came out when he ran unsuccessfully for Davison County sheriff in 2006. Walter Panzirer, Leona Helmsley’s grandson.      Mitchell Daily Republic photoAfter Helmsley’s death in 2007, he, along with four others, including his brother, David Panzirer, were named in the will as trustees of the Helmsley estate estimated at over 5 billion dollars. The first 136 million came out of the distribution vault on Tuesday and, thanks to the apparent influence and generosity of Mr. Panzirer, over 19 million of that is headed for South Dakota with the bulk going to Avera Health Systems. Clearly he has a soft spot for Mitchell..earmarking 2 million to Queen of Peace Hospital there and 3 ½ mill to the Abbott House..a facility for troubled girls.
I haven’t been able to find out much about why Walter Panzirer chose to make South Dakota his home but he certainly doesn’t seem to possess the dubious qualities of his famous grandmother whose reputation as a ruthless tyrannical hotel and real estate tycoon is well documented as is her 18 month stretch in prison for tax evasion in 1989. Leona and Hubby, Harry Helmsley 1991Even in death, Helmsley raised eyebrows and caused heads to shake in disbelief when, in her will, she asked that 12 million dollars be placed in a trust for the care and feeding of  her beloved little dog, “Trouble,” while leaving two of her grandkids zilch. In a mission statement, she also requested that the bulk of her estate go directly to the care and welfare of dogs. A judge has since ruled that the trustees don’t have to stick to those mandates and another judge ruled that Helmsley was mentally unfit when she executed the will so the two disinherited grandkids get six million afterall.Walter Panzirer and his brother each got ten million dollars..but not without stipulations. They’d receive five million outright but the other five would only come on condition that  the boys visit their father’s grave in New York once a year.
I’m betting that Walter would have met that condition without being told.
P.S. Here’s an interesting and timely tidbit from the Keloland memory banks:  Keloland founder, Joe L. Floyd was good friends with Wisconsin Senator, Gaylord Nelson. In 1969 the two of them were in Florida together when Nelson mentioned his deep concerns about environmental issues facing America. Nelson said he wanted to organize some major event to call attention to the worsening condition. He had the idea but was stuck for a catchy title. That’s when Joe Floyd said, “Why don’t you just call it Earth Day?” And that’s what Nelson did..promoting it from his Senate office before the concept caught on nationally.Now you know the rest of the story..er, sorry Paul.

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