The archdiocesan Legacy Society, at their annual luncheon at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Sunday, Jan. 25, honored Dick Closson, a loyal servant of the Catholic Church in Los Angeles for close to two decades.
As Director of Trusts and Estates, Closson works to encourage the faithful to leave some portion of their estate to the archdiocese at their passing through a will, trust or other means of planned giving.
Closson moved from Connecticut to Los Angeles County with his family during high school. After attending the Washington School of Banking, he worked for Bank of America and served as president of an independent bank.
Closson was asked by his pastor at Holy Angels in Arcadia to serve as parish business manager. In discussions with his pastor, the impact of the archdiocese on parish business activity became evident to Closson. He decided he should visit with the archdiocese before assenting to the position.
Closson met with Kevin O’Connor, director of development at the time, and quickly learned that nobody was overseeing planned giving at the archdiocese. At O’Connor’s urging, he agreed to help get things started at the archdiocese.
That was nearly 18 years ago.
“I thought I was probably just going to go down for a short time, but as it turned out, I’m still there,” said Closson.
It would be hard to interpret Closson’s involvement with the archdiocese as anything short of providential.
“I came into this business not really knowing anything about it to begin with and only because I was maybe going to be the business manager of a parish,” said Closson. “It had been about six or seven years since anyone had been there doing any of this, so the idea was to resurrect the whole thing. When I started there wasn’t even a brochure.”
As Closson began to reestablish the Office of Trusts and Estates, he realized that in the largest archdiocese in the nation, the difficulty would be communication.
Feeling his primary responsibility is to educate, Closson worked to ensure both donors and beneficiaries understand the opportunities available to them. He meets individually with priests, parish leaders and even the donors themselves.
Yet, to effectively reach the massive archdiocesan population, Closson needed help. He assembled a group of lawyers and financial planners who volunteer to conduct seminars at parishes. These professionals explain planned giving options such as charitable remainder annuities — a donor purchases an annuity which is paid out to him until death, and the balance is then left to his chosen beneficiary.
Pat Joyce, director of administration at Holy Name of Mary Parish, has worked closely with Closson on these seminars.
“Dick Closson is a favorite of mine,” Joyce said. “He’s been a friend and mentor to me not only in my career but also in my personal life. He’s a great example of a kind, gentle and Catholic man.”
According to Joyce, Closson was instrumental in establishing a planned giving strategy for the parish, a parish educational endowment fund, and a new annual fundraising event.
“Dick’s energy and dedication are contagious. His devotion to his family, his parish and other parishes, the archdiocese and his faith has inspired me and many others to try to emulate him.”
The purpose of the Legacy Society, which was founded 11 years ago by Cardinal Mahony at Closson’s suggestion, is to recognize the generosity of those who have planned a donation to a particular school or parish.
The Society hosts an annual luncheon and Mass at the cathedral with the archbishop, an event which Closson usually helps plan. However, this year the luncheon was organized without his input, and he was surprised to learn that he and his wife Rita would be honored by the approximately 125 people in attendance.
Dick met Rita through a young adult group at Holy Angels. She began volunteering in her husband’s office once a week. Before long, it was five days a week, and she has continued volunteering with him for 12 years. With four children, eight grandchildren and a great-grandchild on the way, the two are celebrating 60 years of marriage in July.
On the plaque awarded them, it was estimated that $100 million worth of charitable giving can be traced to their efforts.
Several beneficiaries of Legacy Society members were represented at the luncheon, including Catholic Charities, Catholic Education Foundation and St. John’s Seminary, all of whom Closson has worked with over the years.
This was not the first time that Closson has been publicly honored by the archdiocese. In 2008, he was an honoree at the Cardinal’s Award Dinner, an event begun by Cardinal Mahony in the ‘80’s to celebrate selfless contributions of talent and service throughout the archdiocese.
What has motivated this veteran during his prolific time with the archdiocese? Closson’s answer is simple and humble.
“I’m very grateful to be where I am,” Closson says. “I enjoy what I’m doing, and the other side of it is to know that we’re making something happen for the benefit of the parishes and schools.”