A Lawrence businesswoman who spent her life giving back to the Lawrence community left one final gift for several organizations she cared about the most.
Sidney Ashton Garrett, who served as CEO of the local manufacturing company Brown Cargo Van Inc., died last summer at 65 after a brief fight against renal cancer. She left a trust fund worth nearly $904,000.
Many people identify one or two major charitable organizations to contribute to, said Kathy Clausing-Willis, vice president and chief development officer at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Garrett chose 18 of them, 16 of which were in Lawrence.
That’s no surprise, said Clausing-Willis, a friend of Garrett’s who spoke at her funeral. She said Garrett could always be found giving back to her community.
“She loved Lawrence, and Lawrence loved her,” said Garrett’s sister, Judith Ashton, who lives in Boston. “She made a wonderful, wonderful life for herself. She got as much back from Lawrence as she gave.”
Those who knew her in Lawrence said she gave an awful lot.
Clausing-Willis said she was one of those people who did a little bit of everything
Garrett, who graduated from Kansas University with degrees in math and education, left more than half of the trust to the KU Endowment Association. There, it will support scholarships, her Pi Beta Phi sorority, the Spencer Art Museum, the Lied Center, women’s sports programs, men’s basketball and the KU Alumni Association, among others.
She also left money for Lawrence Memorial Hospital, the Lawrence Arts Center, the Kansas Land Trust, the Lawrence Humane Society, Douglas County CASA, the United Way of Douglas County, the Rotary Foundation, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Douglas County, the Cottonwood Foundation and others.
For many of those organizations, Garrett served on the groups’ governing boards or helped out in other ways.
Clausing-Willis remembered Garrett as being good with numbers. She used that skill to assist LMH, both as a member of the hospital’s Board of Trustees, and later as a member of the hospital foundation’s board. She was one of those people you could always count on, Clausing-Willis remembered, and who was effective at getting things done.
The hospital’s foundation hadn’t yet decided how best to use Garrett’s unrestricted gift, Clausing-Willis said.
Dale Seuferling, president of the KU Endowment Association, said Garrett’s careful estate planning and generosity called to mind Elizabeth Watkins, another university benefactor who also supported many other causes in the community.
“It speaks very highly of her thougtfulness and foresight,” Seuferling said.
Ashton remembered her sister as a great golfer (the KU women’s golf team got some money, too, she said), and an energetic person who loved to give back to the community. Ashton remembered occasionally chiding her sister about living in the middle of nowhere, in Kansas.
“When she got sick, I knew why she lived in Lawrence,” Ashton said. “People came from everywhere. They were so willing to help.”
Ashton said her sister set up the trust fund before falling ill and succumbing to the cancer after just two months. Garrett left funds in her estate for the hospice care services that she would wind up needing to use herself, Ashton said.
“She was certainly very generous for her family,” Ashton said. “And she saw the community as an extension of her family.”