New London woman gifts cheese company to Community Foundation

Marilynn Taylor (Photo courtesy of Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region)

NEW LONDON (WLUK) -- A New London woman left behind an unusual gift to the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region after her passing.

The late Marilynn Taylor left her entire business, Wohlt Creamery LLC of New London, to the foundation.

The fully-functioning business, including equipment, 60 employees and a lot of cheese, is worth about $5.8 million.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever been given an operating business to steward, and we knew we would need expert help to be most effective,” said Curt Detjen, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. “We immediately put a team together to do the best thing for both the employees and philanthropy in a way that Marilynn would have wanted.”

Taylor died Feb. 25, 2017 at the age of 71. She spent most of her life in Fremont where her parents, Edwin and Sarah Wohlt, founded the cheese company in 1941.

“Marilynn took over the business in 1999 when her father became ill, and single-handedly ran Wohlt Cheese for 16 years,” said attorney Charles J. Hartzheim, Herrling Clark Law Firm in New London.

Last year, the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery purchased the cheese factory from the foundation. The sale was finalized in Aug. 2018. Ellsworth Creamery retained all of the employees and kept Wohlt Cheese intact.

The money will be used for scholarships for Lawrence University students, with a preference given to those from New London, Weyauwega and Fremont and fulfilling community needs in New London, Fremont and other nearby cities and towns.

"Marilynn was one of the best business women I've ever met. Personality wise easy to get alone with and just an over all genuine person," said Gary Henke, Mayor of New London. "That was pretty typical of Marilynn to have everything taken care of, she always had her bases covered, but it is quite a pleasant surprise," he said.

Ultimately it will be up to New London's city council to decide what the money will be used for, but the mayor Henke said they already have some projects in mind.

"We're looking at a new library, so it could be used for that project or expanded recreational programs," he explained.

The first grants will be distributed beginning July 2019.

Taylor also gifted several properties and homes in the estate gift, worth approximately $2.5 million.

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