The Jack and Vonnie Schlomer Grant

Lawrence “Jack” Schlomer was a CPA who spent most of his career working for the Department of Defense auditing the government contracts. He lived in La Canada and acquired properties as a hobby before and after retirement.

Jack was a single man well into his 40s. He met Margaret Veronica “Vonnie” at a church function; Vonnie had been a nun for 25 years prior to meeting Jack. During their courtship they met at burger joints so each would not know that the other had assets – they didn’t want to be “married for their money.”

The Schlomers had one adopted son, but he died before they did, leaving no heirs.

One Sunday morning, the store manager at a local grocery store saw Jack picking through the store’s trash one to gather food for his raccoons.

The store manager told Jack that he would leave him a box of discarded food for his racoons every Sunday so that Jack wouldn’t have to pick through the trash. Over the weeks and months, they became friends. One day, Jack was complaining about a wall between the market and a brand new condo complex next door. His friend, the store manager, asked him why he should care and Jack said, “Because I own one of those condos.” His friend was incredulous – “You’re kidding me, right? I thought you said you were unemployed.”

“No, I said I wasn’t working – I’m retired!” replied Jack.

Jack was diagnosed in 2004 with merkel cell cancer and died in 2005. Vonnie was physically incapacitated for 10 years prior to her passing in September 2007. The Schlomers left all of their estate to charity and the Arthritis National Research Foundation was one of the lucky beneficiaries of their generosity. When the trustee of the Schlomers’ estate was ready to make a distribution, he called the ANRF office to let us know we could expect ‘a very, very large check soon’. “I simply thanked him on our behalf,” related ANRF Executive Director Helene Belisle. “The day the check arrived, though, I nearly fainted … $1.2 million to ANRF!

“When I spoke with the trustee later that day,” Belisle continued, “I told him we were naming a grant – the Jack and Vonnie Schlomer Grant – in perpetuity. He cried with me, saying the Schlomers would have really liked that.”

The first scientist honored as the Jack & Vonnie Schlomer Memorial Fellow was Candace Cham, Ph.D., of Stanford University. She is studying an exciting new mouse model of rheumatoid arthritis. For 2010-11, the Schlomer Memorial Fellow is Shigeru Miyaki, Ph.D., of The Scripps Resarch Institute. He is doing cutting-edge research to understand what causes osteoarthritis, in an effort to find novel and more effective treatments. This year’s Schlomer Memorial Fellow is Peter Nigrovic, M.D. of Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital Boston.

Learn more about how you can donate to the Arthritis National Research Foundation in your will.