Chestertown Stunned at $27 Million Bequest


Chestertown hit the jackpot this week. And it’s all a bit mysterious.

On March 27 Chestertown attorney Stewart Barroll received notice that the town has been bequeathed $27 million from the estate of the late Jacob Willougby of Richmond, Virginia.

The huge sum comes with a catch, however—the town must also care for Willoughby’s six-year-old giraffe, Binny.

Binny is a 15ft tall male West African giraffe weighing in at about 2,200 pounds.



If the town declines care for the animal, or in any way tries to alter the will’s directive, the remaining portion of the bequest—paid yearly for 5 years— will be terminated and awarded to the next proposed recipient in line.

“The idea of an owner providing for the care of his animal after the owner dies has gone from something that seems laughable to something that’s now very mainstream. The Town, in effect, will be serving as trustee of a pet trust,” Barroll told the Spy.

Willoughby’s relationship to the town seems to be a mystery. A spokesman for the farmer’s estate said that, aside from the bequest and details about Binny’s life, only a postcard found among Willougby’s personal papers connected the billionaire peanut farmer to Chestertown.

The card reads, “Until April, Monica,” and had a circa 1970s photograph of Fountain Park on the front.

According to Global Environment Initiative (GEI) statements, Willougby, was also an accomplished veterinarian who spent time treating animals in Africa, and had taken responsibility for Binny after the creature had been wounded during a poaching effort near Falls National Park in Uganda.

The Richmond-Times Dispatch obituary for Willoughby noted that in 2012 the philanthropist had an entire indoor veldt constructed in 3 weeks on his farm south of Richmond.

While the $27 million is a spectacular windfall for the community, there is great concern over how to take manage and care for the giraffe.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said that the height requirements in the zoning ordinance and prohibition on keeping wild animals might be a hurdle for the town.

“One idea would be to keep down near the water treatment plant,” he said. “That way he could graze in the open fields and we would have to do much cleanup.”

Binny at one year.

Binny at one year.

Town Mayor Chris Cerino, always looking to turn a challenge into an opportunity, said “I currently have a dog and a cat, so learning how to care for a giraffe will definitely be a bit of a stretch, so to speak.  That said, being the only Town on the Eastern Shore with its own pet giraffe has the potential to be a tremendous tourist draw for Chestertown that will stimulate economic activity in the community and spur job creation.”

A photograph of Binny was included in the document along with feeding and care instructions. Giraffes in the wild primarily eat acacia trees, and that could become an expensive issue for Binny’s care.

Marc Thorson, a veldt-specialist from the San Diego Zoo contacted the town to suggest fake feeding trees until the town’s own acacia forest could be produced. “The idea is to build faux trees and dangle acacia leaves from their branches. It works for us. Could for you. And good luck with the acacia forest, thing,” he said.

“For now, guarding the legacy will be paramount. It’s pretty ironclad, but there appears to be part of paragraph missing. I’m checking into that now. In the meantime, Chestertown, get ready for your new, very tall neighbor,” Barroll said.

Binney will arrive on April 1, also known as April Fools Day.


Letters to Editor

  1. Gren Whitman says:

    Does today’s date, April 1, have any bearing on this?

  2. We have acacia trees in our backyard ready for you Binny. #Aprilfools

  3. Lynda Willard says:

    this would solve financing the marina.

  4. Tess Hogans says:

    April Fools? Haha I hope not!

    The town can start a small zoo with “Binny” as the main exhibit. New use for Wilmer Park?

  5. Ed Plaisance says:

    I was getting ready to volunteer planting acacia tress…

    This is almost as good as the NPR report of a few years ago about the exploding maple trees in Vermont due to the sap rising too fast…go to the NPR archives if you have not heard it.

    Well done.

  6. Billie Beck says:

    I can’t believe the College doesn’t just jump right in and offer to take care of the Tall Fellow! All the buying and building they are doing they could just build a home for the Big Fellow. Actually, Giraffes are my most very favorite animal, if they need help taking care of him just give me a holler !!!!

  7. Joe Lill says:

    I understand that the trees that were recently trimmed in town were to accommodate Binney’s height when used for the Tea Party Parade. It would be wise to keep her away from Washington College’s planned wind generating station that will be installed on the other side of Wilmer Park. The plans show that the blades of those generators will come less than twenty feet from ground level.

  8. joe diamond says:

    Nothing makes a herd more healthy than an active predator pack. The very young and very old get culled as the rest become faster and smarter. Just how many lions will be required to make Binney faster. The smarter part is done considering a pal with an unused 27 million bucks.


  9. rachel goss says:

    I love a good Tall tale.

  10. Les Moorhouse says:

    Laugh Out Loud!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Liz Godorov says:

    I need to know if this is true or not please.

  12. Mike Waal says:

    Would certainly help solve funding the Chestertown Marina project!

  13. Amy Nickerson says:

    Great April 1 story Spy! I am a little saddened that it’s not true. Binney looks really cute in the 1 year old photo! Thanks for the laugh!

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