Jack Durant's Humble Will and Testament

The Jack Durant legend lives on.
When he died little more than a year ago, Durant had lived more than eighty years and had run the successful bar and restaurant bearing his name on Central Avenue since 1950.

He died without heirs. Reportedly, there was $500,000 in certificates of deposit in a safe deposit box, as well as the restaurant that reportedly still grosses nearly $2 million a year.

The irascible Durant had been married five times. Each marriage ended, as they say, irrevocably. That means you don't do business with each other anymore.

That left Humble, Durant's English bulldog, then eight years old, as one of his chief beneficiaries.

I learned this when I came across a copy of Durant's will last week.
Here's how it reads in respect to Humble.
"To my dog, Humble, I leave my home, furniture and cash in the sum of $50,000."

The will also provided for a caretaker to be hired to care for Humble so he might live out his years comfortably in Durant's home. There was even a provision for veterinary care when necessary.

There was an ironclad provision that the home could not be sold as long as Humble lived.

I went out to Durant's house at 15 East Marshall, just off North Central Avenue, to see how Humble was getting along.

There was a "for sale" sign on the front lawn of the 2,500-square-foot house, which has four bedrooms, two baths and a large, tree-shaded backyard.

I saw a young woman drive into the driveway and then get out of her car and walk to the door.

I approached her.
"Isn't this Jack Durant's old house?" I asked.
"Yes," she said pleasantly. "I took care of the place until a short time ago."

"You were Humble's caretaker?" I asked. "How is Humble?"
Her face turned sad.
"We had to put Humble to sleep last month," she said. "Humble was a wonderful dog. He loved this house and he had the complete run of it until he died."

"How much is the house worth?" I asked.
"They say it's worth $300,000, given the location and all, but they've put it on the market for a lot less. Humble was pretty rough on it and so all the furniture and everything will have to be torn out and replaced by the new owner. Besides, they want to sell it quick."

I called the real estate firm handling the sale. They told me they were asking $165,000. Someone had already made a firm offer.

I went back home and checked Durant's will again.
The will provides that the house should be sold in the event of Humble's death and the proceeds added to a trust estate that Durant set up for 21 long-time employees of the restaurant.

Durant left the handling of this to First Interstate Bank of Arizona with instructions that it be administered as the "Durant's Employees' Trust Fund." He ordered that the money from the fund be distributed "in convenient installments not less frequently than annually."

The restaurant shares went to Jack McElroy, his silent partner, as well as Thomas O'Malley, a long-time friend, and Russell Hoag, the restaurant's long-time manager.

Indeed, the young lady who had been hired to take care of Humble the Dog was Hoag's daughter, Laurie.

I called O'Malley, who is one of the owners of the O'Malley hardware and building-supplies companies.

"Can you tell me about Jack Durant's will?" I asked.
"I'd better not talk about that," O'Malley said. "But thanks for calling."
There was a click on the other end of the phone line.
I called McElroy.
He chuckled when I asked about Humble.
"You know Jack," McElroy said.
I called Joseph Melczer, the lawyer who signed the will.
"Ethics prevent me from commenting," Melczer said.

I called several of the employees listed as beneficiaries of the trust and asked them what they knew about the will.

"All we know is that we were supposed to have been left money by Mr. Durant. But none of us have ever seen a penny. It's more than a year since he's been dead. Wouldn't you think we'd have heard something by now?"

Durant's been dead now for thirteen months.
Humble the Dog died a year to the day after Durant. Some of the employees think the dog may have been stricken by anniversary depression. He was, however, put to sleep, reportedly suffering from cancer.

Durant also left $30,000 to Gary R. Allen, described as grandnephew, and another $50,000 to the Denis Hogerty family of Colorado.

All this is typical of the irascible Durant, who loved practical jokes and always lived by his own rules.

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Tom Fitzpatrick