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Basingers invest in hometown; $1 million estate to Bluffton University and Mennonite Home Communities

James and Frieda Basinger of Bisbee, Ariz., kept up with the happenings in the Village of Bluffton, Ohio, but didn't get back to their hometown often.

But that didn't matter. James and Frieda left their estate, estimated to be valued at $1 million, to Bluffton University, their alma mater, and Mennonite Home Communities.

At a joint press conference held on Tuesday, Feb. 9, at Mennonite Memorial Home, a property of Mennonite Home Communities, Bluffton University President Dr. James M. Harder made the formal announcement about the gift.

"On behalf of the university and especially our students, I am grateful for the wonderful generosity of two Bluffton alumni and former residents of our local community," he said.

"We look forward to honoring the Basinger's wish to provide enhanced support for student scholarships for current and future generations of Bluffton students. This legacy gift will make a difference in the Bluffton community for many years to come."

"We are extremely pleased to receive this generous gift from Jim and Frieda Basinger. It is the largest gift that our organization has ever received - it is a true blessing," said Laura Voth, chief executive office for Mennonite Home Communities.

"Our Fund Board will be meeting to finalize how this money will be used, but I'm sure we will use it to 'make residents lives brighter' as Frieda so often said."

James and Frieda were both raised in Bluffton, both graduated from Bluffton High School in 1936 and were members of the Bluffton University class of 1940.

James was always very interested in flying and transferred his senior year to Parks College (Illinois), a school specializing in aeronautics. He and Frieda were married in 1940 and he spent time overseas in the service.

He taught at Purdue University and then worked in the aeronautics industry in design and research in Los Angeles, Calif., before returning to teaching at a community college in Douglas, Ariz., for 17 years.

James and Frieda made what may have been their last visit to Bluffton in 1986 for their 50th high school class reunion. Joanne and the late Dean Niswander, Bluffton University Alumni Ambassadors , visited them in Arizona in 1996. James died in 2005. Frieda died Sept. 21, 2009.

Voth shared about her relationship with Frieda. "In her written correspondence over the past four years, Frieda talked about how many of our residents she knew being a hometown girl," said Voth. "During her life and even after her death, she wanted to do what she could to make the lives of her friends here at Mennonite Home Communities more joyous."