Woman leaves $240,000 to schools, fund

first_imgLittlerock High also will get $12,000 every year for five years to provide college scholarships. Sweet’s scholarship donation is the largest ever in recent memory in the Antelope Valley Union High School District, officials said. “Everyone was delightfully surprised,” Littlerock guidance counselor Melissa Vattioni said when Olsen said she wanted to donate the money. “It’s very generous.” Desert Christian Schools will get $60,000 for a tuition fund, and Olsen will set up an elder-abuse victim fund. The $240,000 was what was left over after Sweet’s “Skyland” ranch was sold for $310,000 in March 2006 and loans and bills were paid off. The 2,000-square-foot, four-bedroom home on Devils Punchbowl Road, built by her and her father in the hills above Pearblossom, was at the center of a criminal case involving Alan Pennington, 53, the man who took advantage of the aging Sweet. Pennington was a telephone repairman who made a service call to Sweet’s home in February2000 and befriended her. He began helping Sweet, who was alone with no children, and took over her finances, assuming power of attorney, sheriff’s investigators said. And he took advantage. He was charged with felony theft of elder property and grand theft in October2005 after he started remodeling Sweet’s house while Sweet lived with a caretaker at a home in Sun Village following cancer surgery in 2004, sheriff’s Detective Janet Homan said. In November 2005, Pennington pleaded no contest to the theft of elder property as a misdemeanor. He was placed on two years’ probation, ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution to Sweet, and told to move out of Sweet’s house within two days, court records show. Pennington’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment. “The problem was he was using her money to fix up the house, but she wasn’t gone yet,” Homan said. “He did some good things but just overstepped his bounds, and maybe if he would have waited and did it the right way she would have given him everything.” After Sweet had surgery in the summer of 2004, Olsen and other neighbors began wondering what had happened to Sweet. “I got involved because we recognized she wasn’t in her house. A man was living in her house,” Olsen said. They would ask Pennington where Sweet was, and he would not tell them, Homan said. “He felt sorry for her. No one was helping her out, and he stepped in,” Homan said. “He thought the neighbors were being nosey and butting in. He wanted to take care of her.” Eventually, neighbors found Sweet at the Sun Village house, and she told them she wanted to go home, Homan said. Homan, who began investigating the case in May2005, said Sweet was heartbroken about what Pennington had done to the house. Walls had been painted purple, a rock fireplace had been torn out, and floors had been ripped up, Olsen and Homan said. “She didn’t have dementia and knew what she wanted, and her desire was she wanted to go back home. “She told me she didn’t want anything to do with him after what he did to the house,” Homan said. “She was very spunky and sharp, and she was able to recall things from way back. As she got older, she got more crankier.” Sweet got her house back, but she never lived there again. Her cancer came back, and she had another surgery in August2005, but this time doctors discovered it had spread to her abdomen and said she wouldn’t live more than two months, Olsen said. Then in a wheelchair, Sweet’s illness required around-the-clock care, and she lived out the rest of her life in board-and-care homes, Olsen said. Olsen, who worked as an emergency room nurse for 30 years, said she would take Sweet up to her house on occasion. “I would take her there, and we would sit outside,” Olsen said. [email protected] (661) 267-5744 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Olsen said Sweet, who worked in Washington, D.C., as a secretary and was postmaster at the Valyermo and Palmdale post offices, was an avid reader with a passion for education. One of her two ex-husbands, Henry Sweet, served on the Keppel Union School District board for 23 years beginning in 1930. “Education was a no-brainer for her,” Olsen said of the diminutive Sweet, who was 4feet11 and 80pounds. Olsen arranged to give AVC $12,000 each year for five years. This year, six students will receive scholarships of $1,000 each, and 12 students $500 each. “It’s going to help a tremendous number of students, and we are always grateful for any donors thinking of us because it will help continue the investment in our community by educating our students,” said Bridget Razo, Antelope Valley College’s executive director for the Office of Institutional Advancement and Foundation. “It was a wonderful legacy for Mrs. Sweet to leave for us.” JUNIPER HILLS – Dorothy Sweet left her mark. The Juniper woman – who homesteaded a 25-acre ranch with her father in 1947, served as a local postmaster, and then in her late 80s fell victim to financial elder abuse – has willed $240,000 to three schools and a fund to help elder-abuse victims. Sweet, who died at age 92 in September after a battle with colon cancer, gave $60,000 each to Littlerock High School and Antelope Valley College to provide scholarships, $60,000 to Desert Christian Schools for tuition assistance, and another $60,000 to set up the victim fund. “She looked like the granny on the `Beverly Hillbillies.’ She was just the most amazing lady. She was bright and sharp, and had all of her marbles until she died,” said Diane Olsen, a friend who had power of attorney over Sweet’s affairs. last_img