OKLAHOMA CITY — More than two dozen Oklahoma families will know the joy of owning a home thanks to the gift one soldier left behind.
Sergeant First Class E-7 Stephen Florentz served as a helicopter medic in Vietnam. He was wounded in battle in Asia and earned a purple heart before returning to the U.S.
Years later, Florentz volunteered to serve one year in Saudi Arabia as part of Operation: Desert Storm.
Florentz spent his life saving veterans both on the battlefield and then in VA hospitals around the country.
Service was most important to Florentz. The charitable work of Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity was also near and dear to his heart.
“It was just something he was excited about,” said Florentz’ friend Mike Bourland told KFOR. “When he moved to Oklahoma he became a homeowner.”
Florentz had grown up living in a tenement area of Brooklyn, New York. It was his dream to own his own home.
“He called me in 2002 and wanted to know about Habitat for Humanity,” said Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity CEO Ann Felton. “I sent him a letter and some paperwork about our organization.”
Florentz had a passion for home-ownership.
“He wanted to pass that onto others, particularly others who are less fortunate and not able to buy a house,” Felton said.
He never actually volunteered with Habitat, but he died six months ago and left his entire estate to the organization. He had saved the paperwork Felton sent in the mail 15 years prior.
“He still had the letter in his files, and all of the information I had sent him in 2002,” Felton said.
Upon his death, Florentz donated his home and his entire estate; $2.25 million.
It is the single largest gift ever received by Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity and will build houses for 25 families.
The donation will build two dozen houses in the neighborhood that now bears his name, Florentz Legacy Estates in Oklahoma City.
There are several Habitat for Humanity neighborhoods in the Oklahoma City area, but none have been named for a donor.
“I wasn’t the least bit surprised that he had done something so amazing because it was very representative of who he was,” said Reverend T. Sheri Dickerson who served with Florentz in the Gulf War.
Patriot Guard Riders came to a ceremony organized by Habitat for Humanity to recognize the hero, who was overdue for the military honors he didn’t receive at the time of his death last year.
“We’re here to honor a fallen brother,” said Ray Gehrig. “It touches my heart, quite honestly.
“He would be honored by what’s happened today. He gave his life for veterans,” said Bourland.