World War II veteran leaves $600,000 to Colorado Springs hospice foundation

Jan. 30—The Pikes Peak Hospice Foundation recently received a generous and unexpected bequest from a man with no known connection to the Colorado Springs-based nonprofit.

Eugene Griepentrog, a decorated World War II veteran who died in October 2021, left $600,000 to the end-of-life care provider, executor Mindy Underwood said.

Griepentrog, who retired as a chief master sergeant after 30 years in the Air Force, was a generous man with few outlets for his generosity. Widowed and childless, with no immediate family in the Colorado Springs area, he often shopped for items and gave them away to neighbors and friends, Underwood said. Her parents, who were his next-door neighbors before they moved to Florida, essentially "adopted" him as one of their own. Griepentrog eventually asked Underwood to handle his estate.

"About a year before he died, he told me he planned to give money to the hospice," she said. "His quote was, 'I just want to help the old people,' which was kind of funny, since he was in his 90s."

That Griepentrog — whom Underwood called "Grandpa Gene" — would give part of his estate to help make people more comfortable in their final days was hardly surprising to anyone who knew him. The size of the gift, however, was stunning.

"I was truly blown away," said Andy Petersen, executive director of the Pikes Peak Hospice Foundation. "I don't think he had any connection to us, other than the fact that he lived near our offices."

Griepentrog, who died two months shy of his 100th birthday, lived frugally, pinching pennies when he didn't need to — a habit that may have been a holdover from his Depression-era upbringing, Underwood said.

"I used to say to him, 'Grandpa Gene, why do you live on a budget? You don't have to,'" she said. "I think that was just the way his generation lived. It's possible that he didn't know exactly how much money he had."

The Pikes Peak Hospice Foundation, El Paso County's only not-for-profit hospice and palliative care provider, receives the majority if its funding from Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance. But the nonprofit often helps people without access to those resources, Petersen said.

"We have cared for people who were homeless, and other folks who couldn't afford to pay for our services," he said. "It is through gifts like his that we are able to continue our mission to help patients experiencing chronic and terminal illnesses find comfort, dignity and peace at one of the most important times of life."

The hospice foundation plans to honor Griepentrog and his gift with a special etching on its "Town Hall" wall, officials said.

"We would have loved to have met Mr. Griepentrog in person," Petersen said. "But through his generous gift, we feel he will always remain a part of the PPHPC family."

It is a fitting tribute to a generous benefactor, but he probably would have preferred to remain anonymous.

"He wouldn't want this," Underwood said. "Gene was a really modest man. He wouldn't want any attention, or any fanfare. But he deserves it."