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“I make the following bequests…”A brief look at the Last Will and Testament of Stephen T. Mather

In the classic movie Secondhand Lions, the uncles leave a very short will: “The kid gets it all. Just plant us in the damn garden with the stupid lion.” Stephen T. Mather left a much longer will—20 pages including three codicils. But essentially almost all went to his wife and the kid.


On the first page, item three: “I give, devise and bequeath to my beloved daughter, Bertha Floy Mather, as her absolute property forever, the real property in the town of DARIEN, FAIRFIELD COUNTY, CONNECTICUT, known as the “MATHER HOMESTEAD.”


Who else received bequests? Four cousins, one aunt, and a number of colleagues, charities, and causes.


THE RELATIVES


Although Stephen Mather had several cousins on his father’s side, his only Mather bequest was “To my cousin, BERTHA C. HARRIS (nee Mather)…the sum of Five Thousand Dollars.“ [Bertha had been a long time aide and companion to Stephen’s father, Joseph Wakeman Mather, and with Stephen had inherited the Homestead upon J.W. Mather’s passing.]


He also left bequests to three cousins who were daughters of his mother’s sister, Elizabeth Walker Turner. “To my cousin, SHIRLEY AMY TURNER…the sum of Five Thousand Dollars…To my cousin HOPE TURNER…the sum of Five Thousand Dollars…To my cousin JESSIE E. MILNE …the sum of Two Thousand Five Hundred Dollars.”


Stephen also left a bequest to another of his mother’s sisters, SOPHIA A. [WALKER] TAYLOR [Sophia died three weeks after the will was signed and was removed in the first codicil.]


THE COLLEAGUES

In the original will, “To my friend, HORACE M. ALBRIGHT…the sum of Five Thousand Dollars in appreciation of the capable assistance rendered, and his loyalty to me in my work for the Government of the United States of America.” In the first codicil to the will the bequest was increased to “…the sum of Twenty Five Thousand Dollars.”

[Albright was Assistant Director of the National Park Service from 1917-1919 and was named Director of the Park Service in 1929.]


In the original will “To my friend and business associate, OLIVER MITCHELL…the sum of Twenty Five Thousand Dollars.” In the first codicil the bequest was deleted with the notation…”I have recently made a gift to my friend Oliver Mitchell, of property which I deem of greater value than said bequest…I have executed this gift to my friend Oliver Mitchell, during my life in recognition of his loyalty and personal friendship to me which I prized and still prize highly and in order that he might enter into the immediate use and enjoyment of the same.” [Mitchell

had been First Vice-President of the Sterling Borax Company.]


In the first codicil, Stephen Mather adds…”To my friend, ARNO B. CAMMERER…my Assistant in Washington in the Park Service, the sum of Twenty Five Thousand Dollars. I make this bequest to my said friend in recognition of his personal devotion…and the willing manner in which he has performed the difficult duties devolving upon him during my absence from the Washington office.”


In the same codicil. “To those who are employed at the time of my death in the Washington Office of the National Park Service…the aggregate sum of Ten Thousand Dollars, said sum to be divided pro rata among said employees in proportion to the(ir) salaries…”


THE CHARITIES AND CAUSES


From the original will…


“To the UNITED CHARITIES OF CHICAGO. Ten Thousand Dollars”


“To THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, Ten Thousand Dollars…I make this bequest in appreciation of the good work that said University is doing in enabling young men, as it enabled me, to receive an education at a nominal cost.”


“To THE PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF THE REDEEMER OF CHICAGO…Five Thousand Dollars.” [This was deleted in the third codicil following a gift of Ten Thousand Dollars in bonds to the Church.]


“To the DARIEN CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH OF DARIEN, CONNECTICUT, Five Thousand Dollars.”


In the first codicil


“I give and bequeath to the SIERRA CLUB…of which said Club I am now a member, the sum of Ten Thousand Dollars…”


In the final codicil…


“To THE MATHER CEMETERY ASSOCIATION, INC…One Thousand Dollars…applied to the care and maintenance of the burying ground…where my father and mother are buried.”


* * *


Today we tend to overlook the “testament” portion of a Last Will and Testament. Stephen Mather did not. With his gracious recognition and thanks to colleagues, especially those at the National Park Service, he provided enduring testimony of his appreciation and gratitude.



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