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Bentley's beneficiaries include hospital, Pride of Baltimore

Helen Delich Bentley left her largest bequests to a grandniece and a children's hospital.

Helen Delich Bentley, the former congresswoman from Maryland who died last month at 92, left large bequests from an estate estimated at $2.4 million to a children's hospital, animal-related charities and the tall ship Pride of Baltimore.

Bentley, a widow who had no children, put aside $1 million in trust for a grandniece in California.

In a 12-page will filed in Baltimore County, Bentley also left smaller gifts to friends and relatives. Among those receiving bequests is a longtime friend who was convicted of bank fraud and campaign finance violations in the 1990s.

Bentley, a former Baltimore Sun reporter and editor who served five terms in Congress from 1985 to 1995, died of brain cancer Aug. 6 at her home in Timonium.

After the bequest to grandniece Jennie Lee Hartman, Bentley's second-largest gift was $500,000 for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. She made that bequest in the name of her late brother Sam Delich and his wife, Clorinda Petricccianni Delich, for children's cancer research.

Bentley was a longtime champion of the port of Baltimore. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. named the port for her in 2006.

Reflecting her support for maritime Maryland, Bentley left $100,000 to The Pride of Baltimore Inc., which operates the historic replica sailing ship as a goodwill ambassador for the city. That's a boost for an organization that took in just over $600,000 in total revenue in 2014, the last year for which its tax returns are online.

Rick Scott, executive director of the group, hadn't heard of the bequest before he was contacted by The Baltimore Sun. Bentley was a longtime member of The Pride's board.

"That she included the Pride in her will is really pretty heartwarming," Scott said. "A hundred thousand dollars is a significant amount of money for the organization and allows us to continue our mission into 2017 and beyond."

Bentley left $100,000 to the Baltimore Museum of Industry, but that gift came with strings attached. She directed that the museum use it to publish on video or other modern format the television series she hosted on WMAR for many years: "The Port that Built a City and a State."

A dog lover, Bentley left a combined $150,000 to three animal-related causes: the Maryland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society of Baltimore County and Defenders of Animal Rights in Phoenix, Md.

Two journalism schools, those at the University of Nevada in her native state and her alma mater at the University of Missouri, received $100,000 gifts.

Bentley left bequests of $15,000 to $80,000 to several individuals, including $50,000 for her niece, Sue Everson of Rancho Cordova, Calif.

One gift that stands out is the $50,000 she left to Brian Davis, a friend who lives in one of the homes Bentley owned at the time of her death.

Davis, a trucking executive, achieved some notoriety in the 1990s when he was found to have defrauded local banks of an estimated $2.4 million. Davis obtained titles for his trucking company's vehicles in several states and took out multiple loans backed by the same trucks as collateral.

He was convicted and sent to federal prison in 1997. He was released in 2005.

At the time he was scamming the banks, Davis was contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaigns. He gave to politicians of both parties — mostly in Maryland. Many of the contributions were illegal.

The largest single beneficiary of Davis' largesse was Bentley, a friend of his mother. She received more than $55,000 from Davis. Many of the gifts were donated illegally under the names of Davis' relatives.

Bentley denied any knowledge of Davis' illegal activities. They were reported by The Sun two years after she lost her 1994 bid for the Republican nomination for governor.

After his release from prison, Davis reappeared in Bentley's life as a helper and frequent companion. As Bentley got older, Davis would sometimes drive her to public events. He maintained her two homes in return for room and board.

Davis, 60, said Bentley was like a "second mother" to him. He said he helped Bentley when she was sick and injured, and held her in his arms when she died.

"We were pals long before I got in trouble," he said. "She was my friend, and I was shocked that she left me anything."

There was no funeral for Bentley.

Richard Scher, spokesman for the Maryland Port Administration, said the agency is planning an invitation-only memorial service on the morning of Nov. 4 at the port's cruise terminal. He said plans for a public memorial later that day are still being developed.

Meanwhile, the contents from Bentley's two Timonium-area homes will be sold in two — possibly three — sales due to the volume of inventory that she amassed, according to Paul Cooper, vice president of Alex Cooper Auctioneers in Towson.

"The volumes are just off the charts," Cooper said

Bentley's late husband, William Bentley, was an antiques dealer in Baltimore and Cockeysville for many years, and she operated the business for several years after his death in 2003.

"That was one of her real passions," Cooper said.

Cooper describes a treasure trove of "thousands" of items including an extensive collection of fine porcelain from Asia and Europe; a "wonderful' collection of 19th century Russian porcelain; collectible glassware; and Oriental rugs and furniture.

The first sale, which will feature about 900 items, will be held the first week of November. A second sale is planned for December. If necessary, a third sale will be held in January.

"It's not like she kept a home like we have," Cooper said. "The rooms were lined with china cabinets. Each had five or six shelves, chock full. This wasn't like you and I would decorate our house. This was an extension of her antique store. Her house was like her warehouse."

About 15 employees are assessing items from Bentley's estate.

The collection is "certainly into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many hundreds of thousands," Cooper said. "Could it bring a million? Sure. But I'm not prepared to say that. … It's so early on. There's no comprehensive inventory with value to rely on."

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