'How do you thank someone for something like this?'

'How do you thank someone for something like this?'

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DANVILLE — A little more than two years after Julius W. Hegeler II made a $1 million bequest to the Danville Public School Foundation, he decided to double that amount.

The foundation will now receive a total of $2 million from the former businessman and community philanthropist's estate following his death, Executive Director Bob Richard said Thursday.

"It's a fantastic gift to all of the children in the Danville public schools," Richard said.

Hegeler said he decided to double what was already the foundation's single largest donation on Sunday.

"It just came out of the blue," said Lois Wise, Hegeler's companion and secretary/treasurer of the Julius W. Hegeler II Foundation. "We were sitting on the porch. He was reading the paper, and he said, 'I think we need to give Bob and the foundation a little more money.' I said, 'That's fine with me.'"

Richard said he and his wife, Kathy, were scheduled to have dinner with the couple on Wednesday, so he wasn't surprised when Wise called and said Hegeler wanted to talk.

"He said he wanted to wish me a happy Easter. Then he said, 'I want to make your Easter special and let you know I'm giving the foundation another million,'" recalled Richard, who was stunned.

Since establishing his foundation in 1992, Hegeler has donated millions to local entities and projects focusing on education, environmental education, health care, historic preservation, the arts and helping people with disabilities.

"Our board will discuss how to recognize this gift," Richard said. "But how do you thank someone for something like this? He has truly done so much for our community."

The gift is a strong affirmation of the foundation's mission, said Charles Hall, the foundation's board president.

"This will allow us to build on the many programs we've created for the students and faculty in our public schools ... and we're just incredibly grateful," Hall said.

The foundation is a tax-exempt, nonprofit corporation that's governed by a board of private citizens and operated independently of the school district. It was established in 1989 to support new and innovative educational opportunities for students "that are above and beyond the regular classroom curriculum supported by tax dollars."

Since 2009, the foundation has awarded more than $300,000 for classroom grants, school-wide assemblies and larger projects called foundation initiatives, Richard said.

A lifelong Danville resident, Hegeler attended the old Roselawn School and graduated from Danville High in 1946, though at the bottom of his class. While he disliked school for the most part and made poor grades, he credits his teachers for giving him a firm foundation in a life.

Hegeler went on to attend the University of Illinois for three years and graduate from Millikin University; serve as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and fly 70 combat missions in the Korean War, including the last; and co-found Peterson/Puritan, which became world's largest contract packager of chemical specialties and one of Vermilion County's largest employers.

In 2009 after developing a friendship with Richard, Hegeler pledged $250,000 to the foundation over a five-year period. In November 2013, six months after making the final payment of $50,000, he made the $1 million planned gift.

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