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Final Accounting

Jack Jelke died on January 1, 1965, at his home in Forest Park, Illinois. His death was quietly noted in the papers, all of whom naturally recalled his oleo background. Only a few mentioned the notoriety of his son, Mickey. The size of Jelke’s estate was public record in the Probate Division of the Lake County, Illinois, Circuit Court. Initial papers simply said the estate was worth more than a $1,000,000, but this was not an unusual first filing, as attorneys scrambled to assemble information about assets and debts. Over the next months, subsequent filings placed the fortune at just under seven million. After the bequests to his employees and some distant relatives, about $6.8 million remained, which grew in value while the estate was probated. At the same time, however, there were expenses, the administrators’ commissions, estate taxes and attorney’s fees, all of which had reduced the estate.

The final accounting for John F. Jelke Jr.’s estate was filed in June 1967. It showed that after taxes, expenses, commissions, and the minor bequests, the “rest, residue and remainder” of his estate amounted to $2,727,301.07, which was then used to fund, in equal amounts, the three remaining trusts. Each trust received $909,100.35 in stocks and bonds. Michael J. Brody Jr. and his sister were income beneficiaries of one of the trusts. A spendthrift clause in the will prevented them from selling, transferring, assigning or otherwise encumbering either the corpus or the income. Another will provision indicated that the trustee had discretion not to distribute any of the income during either Brody child’s minority. Any income not distributed would be added to the principal.

Jack Jelke’s legacy did not include Good Luck margarine. He had sold his company, and the brand, seventeen-years earlier. During the last ten years of his life, Jack Jelke witnessed the slow demise of his family’s creation. At the time of his death, Good Luck margarine had all but disappeared as a national brand. Lever Brothers had put its energy into marketing Imperial, and Good Luck’s sales dwindled. Lever Brothers had concluded that Good Luck could be replaced easily with Imperial. Throughout the last years of the 1960s, Good Luck margarine continued to lose market share and shelf space. By the time Michael J. Brody Jr. showed up in New York with his fists full of 50s and 100s and a promise to give away his Oleo Fortune, many had forgotten Good Luck margarine. Margarine, as a commodity, however, had found a permanent home in the American kitchen and on the dining room table. The Jelke family’s belief that there was a vast market for yellow margarine had proven true. During the 1960s, the margarine industry continued its aggressive marketing, introducing various packaging and product innovations, including tub margarine, soft spread margarine and all corn oil margarine. By 1970, when Brody made his giveaway promise, the per capita consumption of margarine was twice that of butter.