Fate of bequest to 9/11 victims waits on N.Y.

Associated Press

WAYZATA, Minn. -- The fate of Joe Temeczko's remains and the immigrant handyman's estimated $1.3 million fortune are still waiting for a decision from New York.

His ashes rest in a bronze box inside in the office of his lawyer, William Wangensteen, who worries they could sit there for years.

Six months after his death, New York hasn't formally accepted Temeczko's money or his remains, though a spokeswoman for the mayor on Tuesday said the city is honored and just trying to work out how to use the donation.

Temeczko, a Polish immigrant who came to America in 1950 after surviving Nazi and Soviet prison camps in World War II, always had a soft spot for New York City.


So after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Minneapolis man changed his will, designating that all his money should to go to honor the victims of 9/11.

"I thought they'd jump up and down," said Wangensteen, who serves as executor of the estate.

Wangensteen drew up Temeczko's final will Sept. 29. Fifteen days later, Temeczko died of a heart attack.

On Oct. 24, 10 days later, Wangensteen notified the New York mayor's office of the bequest and also suggested -- on his own -- that the city take Temeczko's ashes.

Months went by. The mayor's office didn't reply.

Of course, New York was dealing with an unprecedented emergency. And hundreds of millions of dollars in donations were pouring in. But Wangensteen was upset anyway.

"I thought for sure I'd get a call immediately back from Mr. Giuliani or someone on his staff," he said.

Early last month, Wangensteen fired off an angry letter.


"Frankly, I'm astonished at the lack of response from the City of New York," he wrote. "I know that Joe Temeczko would be very disappointed."

A flurry of publicity followed.

Jennifer Falk, a spokeswoman for new Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said one problem was the change in administrations on Jan. 1, and another was that Temeczko's will requires that the city council approve how the money will be used.

As for Temeczko's remains, Falk said, that's something they would have to discuss. So, for now, Temeczko waits. And Wangensteen waits with him.

"I don't mind holding him," Wangensteen said.

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