Holm Is Where the Heart Is
updated 08/18/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 08/18/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Now Holm will be remembered for more than plush toys and feistiness. In a stunning act of generosity, the retired secretary, who lived alone in an Evanston townhouse and never earned more than $15,000 a year, left $18 million to Children's Hospital—the medical center's largest bequest ever. Holm became acquainted with the hospital 44 years ago when staffers saved the life of a friend's daughter. The size of the gift, says Children's CEO Jan Jennings, left him "speechless."
So where did Holm, the only child of Swedish immigrants, come up with that kind of scratch? For 41 years, as a secretary to American Hospital Supply Corp. president Foster McGaw, Holm copied her boss's stock market trades—if he bought 1,000 shares of a company, she reportedly bought 10. Over the years it added up. And up. A gregarious six-footer who favored red dresses, she retired in 1969 due to arthritis but always adhered, says Tarenski, to her motto: "I'm going to live until I die." Thanks to Holm's gift, her spirit will survive even longer.