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Longtime government lawyer left $188M charitable trust, including record gift to his law school

Posted Nov 26, 2013 5:45 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A Seattle lawyer who worked for the Veterans Administration for nearly 30 years invested his savings and an inheritance from his parents to amass the money to fund a $187.6 million charitable trust.

When he died in September at age 98, Jack MacDonald left the money for three charities: the Salvation Army, Seattle Children's Research Institute and the University of Washington School of Law, from which he graduated in 1940, the Seattle Times reports.

It is the largest charitable gift made in the state this year; the biggest ever, in this country, to support pediatric research; and the largest ever made both to the law school and the University of Washington, the newspaper says.

MacDonald's stepdaughter, Regan Dennis, said he was careful about how he spent his money and wore sweaters with holes in the elbows in the retirement community in which he lived with his wife of more than 25 years. His wife, the former Mary Katherine Moore, predeceased him in 1999, and he had no children of his own.

“He was tall, very shy, very understated, humble. You would never have known that he had great wealth," Doug Picha told the newspaper. A friend of MacDonald's for 30 years, Picha also serves as president of the Seattle Children's Foundation.

“He was quirky and eccentric in many ways, and always stayed true to himself by acting on his convictions to do the most good with his wealth," Dennis told Fox News.

The share of the trust MacDonald gave to the Salvation Army came as a bolt from the blue. “We didn’t know him, but he definitely knew us,” said Major Douglas Tollerud, the organization's divisional commander for the area, in a written statement provided to the Times.

A Seattle Times obituary provides further details about MacDonald's life.

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