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WWII vet frozen to death leaves estate to hospital

  • Story Highlights
  • Martin Schur, 93, froze to death in his home last month; leaves estate to hospital
  • Attorney won't disclose amount; relative says it's likely in excess of $500,000
  • "Hopefully his death is not in vain and we can learn from this," nephew says
  • The death has prompted a state investigation into the manner in which he died
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By Wayne Drash
CNN
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(CNN) -- A 93-year-old World War II medic who froze to death last month in his Bay City, Michigan, home left his entire estate to a local hospital, an estate attorney told CNN Wednesday.

Schur, center, stands with his nephews Jerry, left, and William Walworth in Pompano Beach, Florida, in 2007.

Martin Schur poses with his wife, Marian, in 1976. Local and state officials agree that Schur's death was avoidable.

The attorney would not disclose the exact amount left behind by Martin Schur. But his nephew said his uncle indicated to family members two years ago that he had saved up more than a half-million dollars over the years. Schur and his wife, Marian, who died more than a year ago, did not have any children.

"I just know at one time he said he had over $600,000 in savings," said William Walworth. "That's what he told me and my brother, and he was proud that he was able to save and build his estate up to that."

Cathy Reder, an attorney negotiating on behalf of Bay Regional Medical Center and the Schur family, said she was filing paperwork in probate court Wednesday for the court to determine the validity of the will. A hearing has been set for March 17.

Reder would not specify the amount left to the hospital, other than to say it's more than $1.

"The will leaves everything to Bay Medical Center," she said.

The hospital had no immediate comment.

Walworth said his uncle was a frugal man who hadn't eaten at a restaurant for over 30 years. "He was very tight, and he was very frugal. But he did manage to save a lot of money."

He said it's possible his uncle's estate could be less than $600,000, but he believes it's still "sizable."

"Knowing my uncle, that's him," Walworth said. "He loved his community. He loved Bay City, Michigan."

He added, "Hopefully his death is not in vain and we can learn from this, and he's still able to save lives. ... He was a very unique, special person in my life. I'm proud of what he was able to do in his life."

He said he hopes his uncle's message will spur others to "look out for their neighbor."

The size of the estate -- if it's as large as the nephew believes -- adds another tragic twist to Schur's death. The power company limited his electricity because he owed about $1,000. Video Watch neighbor say the death is "unforgivable" »

Schur's death last month shocked Bay City, a town of about 37,000 on Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay.

The World War II veteran's frozen body was found in his home January 17, just four days after a device that regulates how much power he uses -- installed because of failure to pay -- shut off his power. A medical examiner said the temperature was 32 degrees in the house when Schur's body was found.

The medical examiner told The Bay City Times that Schur died a "slow, painful death." "It's not easy to die from hypothermia without first realizing your fingers and toes feel like they're burning," Dr. Kanu Virani told the paper.

The Michigan State Police launched an investigation into Schur's death for possible criminal violations. "We have to do everything we can to make sure this doesn't happen again, whether it's Bay City or in any one of the cold weather states," Bay City Mayor Charles Brunner said last week.

The death has prompted a review of Bay City Electric Light & Power's rules and procedures for limiting or cutting off power. It also resulted in Bay City residents protesting Monday to the city about its handling of the whole situation.

A neighbor who lives down the street called Schur's death "unforgivable."

"This can't be allowed to happen in this country," said Jerome Anderson.

Walworth said he believes his uncle's death was "preventable."

"It should never have happened. It's a tragic loss," he said. "I had a lot of fond memories of my uncle, and that's the type of memory I don't want to have: Him freezing to death."

Utility officials said Schur owed about $1,000 resulting in a "limiter" being put on his home. Limiters are devices that cut power as a warning for people who haven't paid their bills. Limiters can be reset to restore a lesser degree of power until a bill payment is worked out. In Schur's case, the limiter was never reset, and it's unclear whether he knew how to do that.

Schur had been living alone since his wife died, Walworth said.

Unlike private utilities regulated by the state, Bay City runs and oversees its own utilities and therefore doesn't fall under Michigan's public service commission. By law, Michigan requires private companies to prohibit cutting off service to senior citizens between November and April. Seniors must register for the program.

The city has begun questioning whether its rules and procedures for limiting or cutting off power need a major overhaul. The utility has stopped its practice of cutting power to customers who don't pay their bills.

The utility also has removed all "limiters" on homes.

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Walworth said someone should have looked at Schur's payment history and made direct contact to see whether something was wrong. He's hoping the nation will learn from his uncle's death.

"Hopefully, some good can come out of this. I'm still an optimist."

CNN's Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

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