Originally created 04/27/04

Odds and Ends



WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Most people do whatever they can to keep their money away from the Internal Revenue Service. Not Maria Woods, a German immigrant with a strong passion for her adopted country.

When Woods died in September at age 80, she left 70 percent of her estate to the U.S. Treasury as a way of showing her gratitude to the nation that took her in.

The total wasn't significant - in her final years, medical costs had shrunk the one-time $500,000 estate to about $98,000 - but friends said the principle was more important than the principal.

"When she told me she was going to leave her money to the IRS, I thought 'Oh, God,"' said longtime friend Pat Dooley. "She had no idea she was giving the fox all the chickens and the chicken house."

After making small bequests to friends, the rest of Woods' estate went to the Arthritis Foundation to help find a cure for an ailment that disabled her.

Dooley's family hired Woods as a nanny when they were stationed in Europe during World War II, then sponsored her immigration to the U.S. in 1959. She became a citizen 11 years later.

Woods was a feisty woman who owned five apartments in West Palm Beach, which she managed herself, said her attorney, Joseph Karp. Woods' request made Karp do extra work.

"My job is to help my clients avoid giving anything to the government," he said. "She told me this country has given her everything she has and she wanted to give some back."

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HONOLULU -- A message-in-a-bottle apparently dropped in the ocean by a Japanese student 12 years ago has finally reached land, washing ashore on U.S. soil.

The glass bottle with algae growing on it and a brittle note inside surfaced Wednesday at Hanauma Bay, a popular snorkeling site on Oahu's eastern shore.

According to the note, an eighth-grader at a school in Iwate, Japan - Kazumasa Miura - cast the bottle into the ocean at 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 11, 1992, while on a boat off the Miyako Islands, which are south of Japan, southwest of Okinawa and east of Taiwan.

"In order to research the current of the sea, we threw away the bottle," Miura wrote.

There's no telling what path the bottle took after that, but its discovery here - by park ranger Sarah Hurst on a routine patrol of the shoreline - has generated excitement.

Alan Hong said this was the first message in a bottle that has come ashore at Hanauma Bay in the 14 years he's been the park manager. The find was also uncommon because things from Japan rarely make their way to Hawaii via ocean currents, experts said.

Hurst said she would comply with Miura's request for information and send it to the school along with a photograph of Hanauma Bay.

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FRONTENAC, Kan. -- Rumbles of thunder and heavy rains were replaced by the rumbles of hundreds of motorcycles and a sprinkling of holy water.

Leading the gang and wearing riding boots beneath his vestments was the Rev. Robert McElwee, who offered prayer during the annual Blessing of the Bikes in downtown Frontenac.

"Did I get you?" he asked Sunday, weaving through a cordon of more than 1,500 brightly painted motorcycles from as far away as Utah and Idaho.

McElwee, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church and an avid motorcyclist, has seen the event grow in the past eight years from an informal gathering after Sunday Mass to a regional affair in this town of 3,000.

"These machines are part of your unfolding creation," McElwee prayed before distributing 25 gallons of holy water.

Marcketta and Larry Gates, both 48 of Erie, had been to one-day bike rallies but nothing like Sunday's event.

"I've never had our bike blessed. We thought we should," Marcketta Gates said.

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CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- When Darlene Hall first saw the mess on her front porch, she wanted to kill her puppy.

Now she's calling him her "money dog."

The stuffing that Cha-Cha, an Australian shepherd/blue heeler mix, had yanked from a recently purchased old brown vinyl ottoman turned out to be, in fact, shredded money.

And Hall may get some unshredded bucks back from the federal government for turning it in.

Hall stuffed the shredded money into some shopping bags and took it to a friend at a local bank, who gave her phone numbers for the Department of the Treasury.

"They said to put it in a box and mail it to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C., and they would send me a check," said Hall, who bought the ottoman for $1 at a yard sale last year.

"My friends say they won't pay me for it." But, she shrugs her shoulders and asks, "What am I going to do with it?"

Darlene said she has no idea how much money was in the foot stool, but identified pictures of Washington, Grant and Lincoln.

"It's like I found the pot at the end of the rainbow," she said. "And it was shredded."