Woman Leaves $4.3M Gift

Woman Leaves $4.3M Gift

Four local nonprofits received nearly $4.3 million on Friday from the trust of a Wisconsin native who made her home in Bridgewater.

The late Marion Elsbeth Carson left that amount for two departments at the Sentara RMH Medical Center, Bridgewater College, the Massanutten Regional Library and First Step: A Response to Domestic Violence. She also provided a gift to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.

Don Showalter of Wharton, Aldhizer & Weaver said it’s the second-largest trust dispersal he’s handled in his 53 years as an attorney.

Sentara RMH’s oncology department and Bridgewater College each received checks for $1,191,605.80.

Carson directed the hospital is to use that money to help recruit and retain an oncologist at its cancer center. Donated in memory of her parents, Archie G. and Grace Maycroft Carson, she directed Bridgewater to use its money for its fine arts and/or humanities programs.

The library was provided $953,284.64, another $714,963.48 was left to Sentara RMH for its emergency department, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was gifted $476,642.32, and First Step received $238,321.16.

Carson died in 2000. Showalter said her father was an executive and large shareholder of a Wisconsin electric company and left his daughter, who never married, a significant inheritance.

She taught art, he said, and was an avid reader, particularly of poetry.

Carson established the trust in 1990, stipulating that it was to provide income for her cousin, Esther Rose Hall, until her death. Hall died in April 2017 at the age of 96.

Showalter said the trust was valued at less than $2 million when he and a co-trustee began managing it. Over the years, its value more than doubled.

Books Plus Money

The Massanutten Region Library received more than money from Carson. When she died, her book collection — which Showalter said included some first-edition poetry books – was left to the library.

Michael Evans, the library’s director of advancement, said he thinks Carson’s is the largest individual gift MRL has ever received. The library’s board will decide how the money will be spent.

“It means a great deal to us, obviously,” he said. “In general terms it will give us resources to improve the library going forward, expand programming, expand services to our patrons in Page and Rockingham counties.”

Massanutten Regional Library has an annual operating budget of $2.3 million this year, Evans said.

Though the amount is smaller, Candy Phillips said the gift is the largest individual donation First Step has received since she took over as director in 2008.

The money can make a major difference in First Step’s efforts to help domestic violence victims, she said. Demand for services has increased in recent years, and the organization needs to grow to help those in need.

“It’s so exciting and so overwhelming to have Ms. Carson think of us and to include us as part of her trust,” said Phillips. “It opens up some possibilities to give us a chance to think about growth and possibly expansion in the future.”

The organization’s board of directors, she said, is considering multiple options that include using between $50,000 and $60,000 to pay off the mortgage on its building.

Bridgewater College also hasn’t made any decision on how it will use its money, according to executive vice president Roy Ferguson, but the college has been considering introducing new programs in its fine arts and humanities programs.

“These kinds of gifts are transformative for the kind of education that we provide for our students, so we’re thrilled and grateful,” he said.

Carson, said Ferguson, was a good friend of Phil Stone, Bridgewater’s president emeritus.

Showalter said Carson had a form of cancer and traveled to Charlottesville for treatment because RMH wasn’t able to help her at the time, so she wanted the hospital to improve its care for cancer patients.

She also, he said, was concerned about those who had to turn to the emergency room for their healthcare and thought RMH’s department at the time was limited.

The more than $1.9 million is among “the top two or three gifts” the RMH Foundation has ever received, said executive director Cory Davies.

Both departments, he said, are exploring ways to improve patient care, and the additional money will help it reach its goals sooner.

“It’s not an overstatement to say that this can be life-saving for people that come to our hospital,” said Davies. “It’ll make a tremendous difference for them.”

Carson’s gift, he added, is going to leave a legacy for her compassion and her caring for her community, but it’s going to be felt in our patients’ lives for “years to come.”

Showalter said the largest trust disbursal he’s handled was from Burgess and Julia Nelson. It totaled more than $5.1 million and went to two hospitals — Shenandoah Memorial and what was then Rockingham Memorial — in 2010.

By Vic Bradshaw - Daily News-Record