WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Mabel Walker, who with her husband Tom gave generously of their fortune, was warmly remembered Monday for her many charitable acts.
Walker, 93, died Sunday at her home after a long struggle with cancer. (Read her full obituary here.)
As one half of the husband and wife team of Tom and Mabel Walker - they were usually spoken of together - Mabel Walker was known for being generous, but also plainspoken and direct.
“Their impact is really hard to put into words,” said Rande Richardson, head of the Northern New York Community Foundation, which supervises the Walker Family Community Fund.
While the Walkers’ charitable giving extended to many organizations and causes, Tom and Mable Walker concentrated on education and health care.
Education “was a big part of their lives; it was part of what enabled them to do what they were able to do. It’s what shaped them,” Richardson said.
“They wanted to pass that benefit on to others.”
The Walkers established several scholarships at Jefferson Community College and SUNY Potsdam, and part of the Walker Family Community Fund goes to education.
The Walkers lost two daughters, Constance and Winifred, to cancer at a young age, and they gave extensively to Samaritan Medical Center, helping fund two generations of cancer care.
“I was well aware Tom and Mabel lost two daughters to cancer,” Samaritan CEO Tom Carman said Monday.
“They wanted to make sure cancer care was available and that it was exceptional care.”
In 1986, Mabel Walker helped found Hospice of Jefferson County.
“Mabel was an organizer. She knew how to get things done, or she knew who to help get things done.,” said Diana Woodhouse, Hospice CEO Monday.
“She remained committed to Hospice, really throughout the rest of her life,” Woodhouse said.
Even after she began receiving Hospice care, Woodhouse recalled, Mabel Walker would still pepper her with questions - “How are things going? What are the next steps?”
“She always had ideas for making things better, and ideas on how to bring improvements.”
Mabel Walker was seldom afraid to say what was on her mind.
In an interview on 7 News circa 2010, she lambasted a candidate for congress.
“He needs a lesson in remedial math because anybody should know he was splitting the ticket,” she told a reporter.
“Mabel was tough in a nice way,” Carman recalled Monday. “She told it like it was. You always knew where you stood, and I appreciated that.”
“Ultimately it was about wanting to do the right thing, wanting her community to be better and making sure that if she was giving, the organization she was giving to was going to be a good steward of that gift.”
And for all the big gifts the Walkers have given over the years, Richardson said Mabel was very proud of smaller gestures they made.
“I think some of the things they were most proud of were things where they weren’t the top giver, where they were just the ones nudging it along, or they were the first gift to a smaller project, to say ‘We believe you can do this,’” he said.