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Lifelong Apollo resident leaves $140K to community institutions

| Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, 1:41 a.m.
Bernice E. (Sellers) Busch, 97, died June 27, 2011, at Concordia at Ridgewood Place in Plum. The former Kiski Township resident set up a trust that distributed about $140,000 to Kiski Valley organizations upon her death. Those distributions were completed in 2012. Submitted

KISKI TWP. — The Kiski Township Fire Department has needed to replace its 1986 rescue truck for about a decade now, fire Chief Rich Frain said.

A gift from a generous township resident is now going to help make that possible.

The fire department is among the beneficiaries of a trust set up by Bernice E. (Sellers) Busch, who died June 27, 2011, at Concordia at Ridgewood Place in Plum. She was 97.

Final distributions from her trust that recently went out totaled nearly $140,000, said Tim Geary of Vandergrift, the attorney for the trust.

“The woman was extremely generous,” Geary said. “I tip my hat to her. She did not forget the community she grew up and lived in all her life.”

In addition to the fire department, others receiving funds include:

• Apollo Area Pool: $39,000;

• New Beginnings United Methodist Church: $35,000;

• First Evangelical Lutheran Church: $20,000;

• Salvation Army, Vandergrift: $6,400.

The fire department was given nearly $39,000. It will almost completely pay for the cab and chassis of a new Ford F550, said Frain, who said he didn't know Busch.

Her donation was “a total shock,” he said.

“That's money we won't have to worry about finding somewhere else,” he said. “It's a really good thing that lady did for us.”

Fully outfitted, the truck will cost about $150,000. Frain said the department expects to have it in a year.

Busch lived in Apollo all her life. Her mother, Emily (Coulter) Sellers, went to the Lutheran church and she grew up in it, said her friend and caregiver, Dick Ference.

She began attending the Methodist church, which was then called Apollo First United Methodist, after marrying her husband, Preston Busch. Preston was a Sunday school teacher and trustee there, according to Ference.

Preston Busch died in 1995. The couple had no children.

New Beginnings opened on Route 56 in Kiski Township in November 2009. A $175,000 gift from the trust of Busch's sister-in-law, Edna Busch, was used to buy the land it now stands upon. Edna died in November 2004.

Bernice Busch's total contributions to New Beginnings total between $190,000 and $200,000, Ference said.

A representative of the church could not be reached for comment.

“Through their investments and so forth they passed a lot of money into the community,” Ference said. “They were private people. They really didn't want a lot of publicity.”

Bernice Busch was known for her stories and her smile, said Kim Bigley, who had been her nurse at Concordia at Ridgewood Place, a personal care home where she lived for about a year. They called her “Birdie.”

“She was a very sweet woman,” Bigley said. “She had a smile all her own, and she never complained even when you knew she wasn't feeling good. She was very strong-willed.”

She liked to share her stories, which were mostly about how much she loved her husband.

“She missed him a lot,” Bigley said.

Bigley said she was surprised to hear about Busch's donations.

“I knew there was some money. I didn't know how much,” she said. “She was very dedicated to church. She was very God-fearing.”

Preston Busch was one of the founders of the Apollo Area Pool, said pool President Pam Altemose, who knew them both.

Altemose said she doesn't know exactly how the pool will use the money it received, but knows it means the pool will be open next year. The pool was open this year after financial problems caused it to be closed in 2011 for the first time in its history.

“We'll definitely be open next year. That won't be a question,” Altemose said. “The sad thing about it is, you wish they were here so you could thank them.

“It's a shame you didn't know all this was coming ahead of time before they passed away so you could thank them.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or

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