11/04/08 — Late Shriner, wife leave $700,000 to children's hospitals

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Late Shriner, wife leave $700,000 to children's hospitals

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on November 4, 2008 1:46 PM

DUDLEY -- Ray Casey had a message about bull horns to send to his departed friend, Rufus "Rooster" Jackson Best, long time member of the Sudan Wrecking Crew.

Best, with his wife, Marie Forrest Best, donated about $700,000 to the Shriner's Hospital in Greenville, S.C., with the help of an investor friend, following Mrs. Best's death in September. Mr. Best died in September 1991, friends said.

As the couple had requested, the Wayne County Shrine Club didn't announce the donation until last week, at a dinner that was partly meant to honor the Bests and their investor friend, John Amon, a retired broker who once ran his firm in uptown Goldsboro.

The message about bull horns came as Casey remembered his friend in front of the Dudley-based club, where participants enjoyed a steak dinner and news about a recent fish fry's financial results.

"Rooster, I know you're up there tonight," Casey said. "One of the things that I remember most was at the Houston Astrodome," where a mechanical bull was set up.

"He had no more than sat down on that thing, and couldn't get off, and couldn't get his legs up high enough, and he actually broke one of the horns off," Casey said.

Casey took the blame for the incident, which he said wasn't justified -- others were responsible for the bull horn's temperamental nature, according to Casey.

"It was another (Shriner's) temple that had that little remote control, and until the day that he passed away, he blamed it on me," Casey said in recollection.

Art Green, the club's president, Bobby Waller, the club's current potentate, Casey and Amon gathered on stage to celebrate the couple's lives and gift.

After the announcement, Casey explained how the couple were able to give such a large amount of money, while Amon joked that it was a good thing the money was no longer subject to the stock market's fluctuations.

"Rufus and Marie were the ones that took care of this," said Casey, who explained the couple had no children. "They wanted it to go somewhere where it was needed."