by Noel McLaughlin
“She was just a very interesting woman,” said NCCF Board Member James Narron about the late Ernestine J. Williams. I was writing a feature on Mrs. Williams to highlight her scholarship endowment, and he was recalling her as both an old friend and former client.
It’s always bittersweet to piece together a profile of our fundholders after they’re gone. Without exception, it makes me wish I had known them personally and had the opportunity to talk with them directly.
I also feel a big sense of responsibility. After all, my words will represent this person who is now gone from this earth. I want to be sure to capture the essence of what they were like. What fueled their generosity? There is always a tale to be told.
Others can also help tell the story, and generally there are many people who are willing and able and even excited about the opportunity to share something about the deceased.
Mrs. Williams illustrates this point perhaps as much as any of our late fundholders. Once word got around that we were doing a profile for our website, hands went up, calls came in, emails were sent. “Call me. I’d be happy to talk to about Ernestine. I LOVED her!”
One source remembered Ernestine as an “elegant” woman who had a flair for decorating. She loved to entertain and was entertaining. She was an excellent golfer. She also figured into many neighbors’ childhood memories – and that of their own children.
A common thread wove all of these comments together: generosity, love, thoughtfulness.
Another person whose memory galvanized many to share personal anecdotes was Mrs. Louise Oriole Burevitch, whose $20 million legacy for eastern North Carolina will, in and of itself, fuel countless stories for years to come.
But it wasn’t Mrs. B’s money that people wanted to talk about. It was her personality. Fun, adventurous, a lover of animals and children -- these characteristics combined to present another person I wish I had known. The recurring theme emerged in her portrait as well: generosity, love, thoughtfulness.
Of course not all people we profile are gone. Many set up funds while they are alive so that they can enjoy the fun that comes with giving. One person who seems to have captured the joy of philanthropy is Wayland Jenkins. An afternoon spent listening to him talk, speaking with his neighbors and friends and Googling his considerable footprint in northeastern North Carolina helped us tell part of his story. What drives his giving? You guessed it: generosity, love, thoughtfulness.
Whether with us or not, their tales are not over. Their narratives really have no end. The impact of their grants, the stories of what their generous endowments accomplish in their communities -- keep the memories alive -- now, in the future and forever.