A Southern California man with an extensive gun collection of mostly antique firearms spanning centuries wanted one of his passions to benefit another.
Paul O'Donnell died Sept. 13 after suffering a heart attack at age 78. In his will, the Ontario man ordered the guns be sold at auction with proceeds being donated to West End Shelter for Animals in Ontario.
The more than $600,000 donation came as a welcome surprise when the shelter learned of the bequest earlier this month.
"It has made us have the brightest smiles," said Helen Rockett, of West End Animal Shelter. "We're always in need of money, and support for our dogs, their food, and their kennels.
It is the nearly 70-year-old organization's largest donation by far.
The shelter plans to use the windfall for a construction project that stalled during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new wing will expand capacity at the no-kill shelter and upgrade operations.
"It's going to make me cry," said Rockett. "He's gone, but what a great bequest. It's made the biggest difference in having the building built faster and sooner than we expected."
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O’Donnell’s three senior cats were taken into the shelter after his death. Staff members are fostering the cats at their homes.
Family members told the Daily Bulletin that O'Donnell began collection guns when he was 13. The said he served in the military and was stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington in an administrative position before teaching junior and senior high history classes.
The carefully curated collection was stored in a steel-and-concrete backyard bunker, the Daily Bulletin reported. Ontario police collected the guns following O'Donnell's death.
More than 1,000 guns were bought by the auction house. The list includes weapons from the Civil War, a late 1700s musket, and firearms from the World War I and World War II eras.