When John Rohr, the general manager of Mountain View Electric Association, died at the age of 75 in 2016, he willed his personal fortune to his beloved Limon, Colorado.
Since then, what the John Rohr Legacy Fund has been able to accomplish in this town of fewer than 2,000 people has been nothing short of remarkable. Eight groups in the area, including the town’s library, ambulance, recreation department and Limon Fire District, have received a total of nearly $3 million for equipment and improvements.
“It is amazing what this man has done to change our community for the better,” said Gregory Tacha, the town manager of Limon.
Each year, eight nonprofit organizations receive distributions in a trust fund set up by Rohr, shortly before his death from heart surgery complications, and his personal representative, Joe Martin, board president of Mountain View Electric Association. Martin oversees the fund.
And because each group gets a percentage of earnings based on stock market returns, the payouts have been significant and could last well beyond the fund’s 40-year expected lifespan.
“The fund pays out at about 7.5% of the total in the fund per year to the eight different nonprofits,” said Martin, who is also NRECA’s secretary-treasurer.
“The general rule of thumb is that as you get older, you tend to invest more conservatively, putting your money in fixed income to protect your assets, not growing them. But not John.”
That aggressive approach has enabled the fund to give away millions, “and his account today is about $1 million more than when he started,” said Martin, adding that in 2021, the fund made its largest single distribution yet—about $725,000.
Since 2017, Limon’s public agencies have used their $930,000 payout for a laundry list of items, including new plank flooring and carpeting in the library; equipment upgrades for the ambulance department and additions to their equipment reserve; and a warning track and backstop at a baseball field.
Unused money goes into reserve funds for long-range planning purposes, said Chris Snyder, the town clerk and treasurer. “They’re not going to just go spend it just because they have it.”
Among the most eagerly awaited items is a new public pool to replace the town’s aging facility that was prone to closures because of faulty pumps. When it opens next summer, the pool will boast an aquatic climbing wall, a corkscrew slide and other amenities.
“It will be a cool thing,” said Snyder. “The old pool was built in 1957 and needed a lot of repairs.”
In addition, the Rohr funds are helping finance a bond issue approved by voters to increase the local sales tax to pay for the $3.7 million pool. “I believe it’s because people knew we had that money to go toward it,” said Snyder.
Rohr, who ran the co-op from 1981 to 1996 and was known for his frugal lifestyle, valued his privacy and stipulated the payouts begin after he died. Snyder and Martin said his generosity has shaken the town.
“The money is an amazing gift,” said Snyder. “He didn’t do this for the glory. He did this because he must have really liked Limon.”
Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer for NRECA.