Broadwell, IL man leaves estate to actors he never met
Broadwell man leaves estate to actors he never met
He never married, had no children or close family and few friends. But he considered two actors, Kevin Brophy and Peter Barton, to be his friends. He liked the shows in which they acted but never met either of the men.
So imagine their surprise when Brophy and Barton learned that a stranger had named them beneficiaries of his estate; an estate that will likely amount to the high six figures after Ray’s 160 acres of farm ground are sold. Depending on the price paid per acre, and $10,000 an acre might not be far off, it could hit a million dollars. Barton and Brophy will each get half.
Attorney Donald Behle, who has an office in Lincoln, is executor of Ray’s estate. Following Ray’s death on July 16, Behle sent letters to Brophy and Barton informing them that a central Illinois man they had never met was leaving them a sizeable chunk of money.
“What’s the first thing you would think if you got a letter like that?” Behle says. “You’d think it was some kind of scam.” So did Brophy and Barton, who, understandably, thought this was too strange to be legitimate.
It’s no joke
Both men were television and movie stars in the 1980s and 1990s. In fact, Brophy’s biggest break was the 1977 TV show “Lucan” in which he played the title character who had been raised by wolves. Ray kept a Lucan poster on the wall of his house many years after the show went off the air.
One-time teen idol Barton acted in movies and TV shows, most notably as Dr. Scott Grainger in the daytime soap “The Young and the Restless” from 1987-93.
Barton and Brophy know each other and worked together in the1981 movie “Hell Night,” which starred Linda Blair.
After receiving the letter concerning the bequest, Barton flew to central Illinois to check it out. He met with Behle and learned this was no scam and no joke. He saw the ramshackle farmhouse where Ray Fulk lived and the empty corn bin where he was found dead.
Dennis Gleason had known his neighbor Ray Fulk ever since Dennis was a boy. He describes a man who was, at the least, eccentric. Dennis says Ray would sometimes come to his farm and stay all day.
“I probably knew him better than anybody,” says Dennis. “I felt sorry for him.”
Dennis says that as a young man, Ray didn’t get along with his parents, especially his mother, because he couldn’t hold a job. Later in life, Ray had tendencies toward hoarding, believed in some bizarre theories and loved animals. The only other beneficiary in his will was the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago to which he left $5,000.
“He loved his dogs,” says Dennis. “He took better care of his dogs than he did of himself.” Ray had his own pet cemetery on his farm where he buried his dogs.
Two years ago, a Springfield cardiologist told Ray he needed heart bypass surgery, but Ray didn’t believe it, especially after he heard how much it would cost. A concerned nurse asked Dennis if he could help convince Ray of his urgent need for cardiac surgery. Dennis could not convince him, and, inevitably, it was his bad heart that killed Ray. In July, he had gone to the corn bin near his house where he kept free weights for exercise. He died there, probably of a heart attack. His body was found a couple of days later.
His will, which has now been through probate, requested that he be buried at the pet cemetery with his dogs, if possible. It wasn’t possible. Instead, he was buried next to his parents at New Union Cemetery in Lincoln. Only about 10 people, including Behle, Gleason and some caretakers, attended the graveside service.
Behle had acted as Ray’s attorney in an earlier civil matter, so in December 1997, Ray approached him to draw up his will, including the bequest to Brophy and Barton. I have a copy of the will. In it, Ray refers to Brophy and Barton as “my friends.”
“I found a couple of letters he had written to them,” says Behle. “They sent back responses that basically said thanks for writing and please watch me in whatever their next movie or show was.”
In the TV show “Lucan,” Brophy’s character had wolf-like powers when angered. Given his intense love of dogs, that must have appealed to Ray.
Behle says Ray felt an especially close, perhaps even telepathic, connection with Barton, probably because of one of Barton’s TV shows “The Powers of Matthew Star.” It ran for one season, 1981-82. Barton, co-starring with Louis Gossett Jr., played the title character. Among his powers, Star, an alien, was telepathic and could also move objects with his mind.
Behle has spoken to Barton and Brophy about possibly coming to central Illinois to host a fundraiser in honor of Ray Fulk. Proceeds would be donated to animal shelters, in honor of what were God’s most beloved creatures in the enigmatic mind of an enigmatic man who left behind a most unusual last will and testament.