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Illinois Community

Pontiac Retirement Home Shocked By $2.4 Million Gift from Woman Who Never Lived There

Aimee Sharp
Author | Shield HealthCare
07/31/18  2:30 PM PST
Retirement Home

Pontiac Retirement Home Shocked By $2.4 Million Gift from Woman Who Never Lived There By Angie Leventis Lourgos, Chicago Tribune for SJ-R.com

PONTIAC — A retirement community got a call from a bank officer on an otherwise nondescript weekday in May. A 103-year-old woman, touched by a decades-old connection to Evenglow Lodge in Pontiac, had left the central Illinois facility a gift in her will.

The size of the donation stunned staff and residents: $2.4 million from the estate of E. Ruth Harris, a former schoolteacher and farmer’s wife, described by friends and loved ones as modest and frugal until her death on Jan. 9, 2017.

“I was speechless,” said Kathy Alexander, the staff member at Evenglow who spoke on the phone with the bank officer. “I was just flabbergasted. Because I had seen Ruth in her home.”

On a few occasions, Alexander had visited Harris in her small duplex on Prairie Smoke Drive in Gibson City, a town of roughly 3,400 about 40 miles southeast of Pontiac. She recalled Harris usually wore a plain dress and house slippers — with no jewelry or fancy possessions or other evidence the elderly woman was a millionaire.

Harris was never a resident at Evenglow, but had mentioned to Alexander that her family toured the facility several decades ago. Her parents were looking for a home for her sister Agnes Lape, who had a developmental disability, in case the family could at some point no longer provide long-term care. Evenglow pledged to help but Agnes Lape died in 1995, without ever living there.

“They were so impressed and appreciative of how they were treated,” said Evenglow Lodge CEO and President Mark Hovren, “and Ruth didn’t forget that.”

Calling a donation of this size a “once in a lifetime” event, Hovren said the nonprofit’s board hasn’t yet decided how the money will be spent. But some of Evenglow’s buildings are aging and the extra funds might help with upkeep and repair, he said.

Read the Full Article at SJ-R.com.