South Dakota’s Michael J. Fitzmaurice State Veterans Home in Hot Springs has received a $1 million gift from an 85-year-old Texas bachelor who died in April.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced the gift Wednesday during her budget address to the Legislature at the Capitol in Pierre. Noem said the gift came from Arlyn Reinert, who was a career Air Force veteran.
“Master Sergeant Arlyn Reinert was a frugal man who lived a meager life in Perryton, Texas,” Noem said during her speech. “After conducting research, Mr. Reinert chose South Dakota as the landing spot for his life savings of over $1 million.”
To honor Reinert’s service and gift, Noem said, her proposed budget “contains $100,000 in other-fund authority, ongoing, to develop a scholarship program to develop the workforce at the home, as well as enhance quality-of-life programming for the residents.”
Public probate documents in Texas show that Reinert died April 13 at Senior Village Nursing Home in Perryton. He was never married and had no children.
A brief obituary said Reinert was born on June 25, 1932, in New London, Wisconsin. He served 26 years in the Air Force. He was part of the 463rd Tactical Airlift Wing, and his last assignment was with the 773rd Tactical Airlift Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas.
Reinert left a will that was dated March 9, 2001. The will bequeathed all of the net proceeds from Reinert’s life insurance policy, plus the rest of his estate “of whatsoever kind and wheresoever situated,” to South Dakota’s Michael J. Fitzmaurice State Veterans Home.
The will named the superintendent of the veterans home as the executor of the estate. The current superintendent is Brad Richardson, who referred a Journal interview request to the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs.
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The deputy secretary of the department, Aaron Pollard, said neither the veterans home nor the department knew of the bequest until being notified after Reinert's death.
"We don't really have a lot of information about why he chose South Dakota," Pollard said. "We think he just kind of looked at the available options, and through the luck of the draw, he chose us."
Reinert’s probate case includes written testimony from Dempsey Malaney, a county veteran service officer in Texas who became acquainted with Reinert in October 2017.
In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon with the Journal, Malaney said he has “no clue” why Reinert chose to leave his estate to a veterans home in South Dakota.
“There was a map that listed all the veterans homes in the United States, and he had no connection as far as I could find that connected him to that one,” Malaney said. “There wasn’t even a pinhole or an ink mark or anything on it.”
Malaney described Reinert as a loner and a veteran of the Vietnam War who was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and other military honors.
Noem’s announcement of Reinert’s gift was one of several Black Hills-related proposals she mentioned during her budget speech, including:
- A one-time $1.8 million appropriation to leverage an unspecified amount of additional federal dollars to partner with willing sellers to remove incompatible uses on property surrounding Ellsworth Air Force Base.
- $215,000 in ongoing funding for Family Education Service Grants to support and expand programs like Life INC and Thrive, offered by Love INC in Rapid City. “These programs teach and give practical opportunities to adults and teenagers on the skills necessary to build and be successful in the workforce and in life,” Noem said.
- The placement of state employees in Indian Health Service facilities across the state “to help make sure that IHS patients receive the best care possible, while also ensuring that we are recovering all possible costs from the federal government.”