Meet Our Donors
We are grateful to the Legacy Society members who have agreed to share their stories and their dreams for the future here. Some of our Legacy Society donors are profiled below. Additional stories of hope may be found in past issues of our newsletter which immediately follow these stories.
Music to Her Ears
Mildred Landecker (Her Gift)
Mildred Landecker’s passion in life has always been music. She trained at the Juilliard School of Music for five years and, at age 19, received her master’s degree from New York University. She taught music at the prestigious New York High School of Music and Art, authored three technical books about music, and gave piano recitals all over the country. To this day, at 91, she teaches music at a local college and has a number of private piano students.
Mildred’s other passion in life was her husband, Dr. Louis Landecker, whom she met on a tennis court in Central Park in New York City in 1937. “He was the athlete. I was the athlete’s foot,” Mildred jokes.
Mildred and “Landy” as she called him were married for 46 years, their marriage abruptly cut short in 1986 by ALS, which took Landy’s life. After his passing, Mildred recalls, “I wanted to contribute so there would be more research done, to help other people, so they wouldn’t have to go through what I went through.”
With only one child a son, Peter Mildred wanted to find a way to support ALS research while passing her assets to Peter. After speaking to several advisors and gift planners, including at The ALS Association (ALSA), Mildred established a charitable lead trust to equally benefit ALSA and another favorite charity of hers. Under this arrangement, ALSA will receive payments from the trust for 10 years, after which the assets remaining in the trust will transfer to Peter.
Mildred is very satisfied with her gift arrangement, and with the work of The ALS Association. “I think it’s a wonderful organization. If more people are aware of it, they can contribute and make it more powerful.” Would she recommend that others make a similar gift? “Absolutely,” she responds. “If someone is planning to give to worthy causes, ALS is one that is overlooked by most people.”
In recognition of her gift, Mildred joined ALSA’s Lou Gehrig Legacy Society, in Landy’s memory. She also insisted that her gift be used to support ALSA’s cutting-edge research program. “I’m very interested in the research. Now, if they could only find a cure!”
That would be music to her ears.
A Promise Kept
Lorraine's husband (His Gift)
Lorraine and her husband bought their home over 40 years ago for $25,000. At the time, the home was a dilapidated mess, but they recognized that it was in a nice neighborhood and that the lot was large enough to make it a worthwhile investment.
During their 60 years of marriage, Lorraine and her husband painstakingly remodeled the house - little by little, room by room. They did all the work themselves, from the kitchen to the bathroom to the roof. They planted a lush vegetable garden in the back yard and added a gazebo and fountain. They turned the property into their dream home.
Years later, when Lorraine was dying of ALS, she asked her husband to make her a promise: "Whatever you do, when you sell the house, give the money to ALS research so that someone doesn't have to suffer like I have," he recalls her telling him.
In the time since Lorraine's passing in 2000, her husband took action to fulfill her wishes. He included a provision in his living trust stating that the proceeds from the sale of their home will be given to The ALS Association (ALSA) and directed to ALSA's cutting-edge research program. "It made me happy to do it," he says. "This was my wife's wish, and I want to honor her wish." Today, the home is worth many times more what Lorraine and her husband paid for it.
Through his gift to ALSA, Lorraine's husband is able to ensure her legacy - one that he hopes will lead to a cure. "I hope this gift helps find a cure for this incurable disease," he says. "Other diseases get so much more funding, and there isn't enough going to ALS."
Lorraine's husband has a suggestion for others who went through what they did: leave a legacy of hope for future ALS patients. "Those that see a loved one die - they're the ones who should give so that others don't suffer."
By turning their dream home into a gift for ALS research, Lorraine's husband is hopeful that her wish for a cure will one day come true.
So one day we can say, 'Mission accomplished!'
Maggie and Paul Molony (Their Gift)
Paul and Maggie Molony have been married 52 years. Paul worked for a major oil company producing television commercials while Maggie stayed home to raise their four children - Karen, Laura, and twins Brian and Susan. Maggie says, "Our lives were filled with so much happiness."
Even so, the threat of ALS lingered in Maggie's mind. Her mother, grandmother, three aunts, an uncle, and a cousin all died of ALS. Maggie explains, "I spent most of our married life thinking and dreading the possibility of being stricken with this horrific disease."
What happened next was unthinkable. In 1987, Karen passed away from ALS. Then Brian. Then Laura. Finally, Susan passed away from ALS in 1998. Maggie recalls, "I never dreamed that one day our four adult children would be the next victims and not me. We were completely grief-stricken and devastated."
It was during Susan's illness that the Molonys turned to The ALS Association (ALSA) for help. "Since then, we have always had a shoulder to lean on. As a result, we consider them part of our extended family."
After Susan's passing, Maggie and Paul decided to do something in memory of their four children: include a bequest to ALSA in their wills. "When Susan passed away, there was no doubt in our minds that ALSA would share in our wills," Maggie says.
The Molonys are hopeful that their gift will help ALSA continue its world-class research efforts. "My wish is to open new avenues of more research on stem cells and to find a cure in time so that our eight grandchildren and future family members may live in peace without the fear of being stricken," Maggie says.
Having lost their four children to ALS has not deprived the Molonys of years of wonderful memories, nor of hope in the future. "We know this is what our children would want us to do," she says, "so that other young people might have a chance to live out their lives. We would strongly suggest that others remember ALSA in their wills so that one day we can say, "Mission accomplished!"
A Son's Commitment to Finding a Cure
Roger Gleckman (His Gift)
Samuel Gleckman had an upbringing that was based on the philosophy that if you work hard, you will achieve success. He was a strong man who drove a milk truck until he was 60. After moving his family to California in 1963, he continued to work as a delivery man for a catering company. He was the best role model a son could have, and indeed Roger Gleckman used his father's hard work ethic to finish law school and become a successful attorney. But after an incident at a family event in 1988, it was time for both father and son to face the biggest challenge of their lives.
"We didn't recognize what it was at first. My father had trouble opening a door because he just couldn't grasp the door knob," said Roger Gleckman of his father's first experience with ALS. As with many people battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, his father had to contend with not only a devastating disease, but also a medical community that was still very much in the dark regarding the symptoms associated with it. "We took my father to a neurosurgeon and because of the medical community's ignorance of the symptoms, my father's ALS went untreated in the early stages of the disease," Gleckman explained.
Unfortunately, the subtle symptoms of ALS crept up on Samuel Gleckman in an unsuspected manner as with most ALS patients. "He had a gradual onset of symptoms. First he couldn't grasp objects in his hand, then he experienced tingling in his arms. After a year, he lost the use in both of his legs," said Gleckman. Within six weeks of the diagnosis, Gleckman moved his father into a nearby apartment. Soon thereafter his father's health slowly deteriorated, and after a two year struggle with ALS, Samuel Gleckman passed away quietly at a Los Angeles hospital in 1990.
Having spent years helping people as an immigration attorney, the younger Gleckman saw an opportunity to help those fighting with ALS. But unlike many people who donate to The ALS Association by simply writing a check, Gleckman decided to tackle the disease a different way. More specifically, he battles ALS by having established a gift arrangement known as a charitable remainder trust, which allowed him to transfer highly appreciated assets into a trust without incurring the prohibitive capital gain tax. The trust pays income to Mr. Gleckman and his wife for their lives, after which the assets are distributed to ALSA.
According to Gleckman, this was the most beneficial and effective way to contribute. "It was recommended by my accountant that I make a gift [to The ALS Association] through my estate plan. This was the best fit based on my financial standing and allows me to contribute a large amount of money in a very effectual way." Gleckman went on to state, "I would definitely urge everybody reading this to make charitable provisions in their financial planning."
Like many people affected by this disease, Gleckman wants his donations to make a difference with regards to medical research. And indeed, since his father's death 16 years ago, much progress has been made with ALS. New evidence shows that some patients are living longer due to clinical management interventions and new medications, scientists are narrowing in on the responsible genes, and there's a renewed sense of hope with advancements in stem cell research. These steps forward are possible because of dedicated people such as Roger Gleckman. "Every dollar counts," as he puts it, in the uphill fight to find a cure for ALS.
Gleckman also has some words of encouragement for anybody recently diagnosed with ALS: "Be positive and make the most out of the time ahead. It's also a good idea to record your thoughts on video and appreciate the time you have left," he said, and went on to modestly explain, "I just want to contribute whatever I can and make the lives of those dealing with ALS better." His enthusiasm and commitment to defeating this disease is unfaltering and an inspiration.
The Greatest Gift
Don and Mary Lois (Their Gift)
A parent’s love for their child is the greatest of human emotions, and it forms one of the strongest bonds imaginable. The love Don and Mary Lois Long had for their son, Jeff, gave them the strength to cope and persevere with any obstacle that life threw at them -- including ALS.
In 1985, Don and Mary Lois were in their late 60s and ready for retirement when they received the devastating news that Jeff had been diagnosed with ALS at the age of 36. Like many people with Lou Gehrig’s disease, Jeff was an athletic person who was an accomplished gymnast in college, specializing in the parallel bars. After he graduated, Jeff started a successful retail shoe business, got married, and had three children. Jeff’s wife was a nurse who knew exactly what ALS did to patients and families. She decided it would be too much for her to handle, and she subsequently filed for a divorce.
According to Don, Jeff handled this heartbreaking turn of events the best he could. “Jeff was an unusual young man in that he was even-tempered. He accepted his fate and did the best he could to get the most out of life.” To be close to his kids, Jeff bought a house for his ex-wife and their children a few miles away, but now he had to face this unforgiving disease alone. Putting their retirement plans on hiatus, Don and Mary Lois moved to Kansas City from Columbia, Missouri, to be with their son and assist in his care, as well as provide emotional support for their young grandchildren.
This was the beginning of the Long family’s fight against ALS. During the years they cared for Jeff, Don and Mary Lois became heavily involved with the Keith Worthington Chapter of The ALS Association. They made donations, helped with newsletters, mailings, events and even visited other ALS patients. Eventually Don was elected to the chapter’s Board of Directors and he brought a sense of realism to other members of the Board because of his first-hand experiences with the disease.
Four generations of the Long family, circa 1981. From left to right: Don Long, Don's father Clarence, Don's grandson Ben, and Don's son Jeff, who died of ALS in 1990.
In the winter of 1990, Jeff lost his battle with ALS. “That morning he wanted to tell me something, but he just couldn’t do it. He laid back and peacefully passed away,” recalls Don of his son’s final moments. After five years of caring for their son and grandchildren, Don and Mary Lois continued their son’s legacy in Arizona by founding ALSA’s successful Valley of the Sun Chapter, now known as the Arizona Chapter.
Mary Lois has since passed away and, although Don is no longer active with the chapter, he still continues his family’s legacy by contributing to The ALS Association through a charitable gift annuity. With this financial arrangement, Don transferredsome assets to ALSA, which ALSA reinvested. In return, Don receives fixed income payments from ALSA for his entire life, after which the funds are available for use in the fight against ALS. In addition, Don received an income tax charitable deduction the year he established his gift annuity.
“I know the money given to The ALS Association will be used for the betterment of ALS patients,” explained Don on why making gifts to ALSA is so important for those living with this disease. His impact on the ALS community has been immeasurable, but the greatest gift Don ever gave was being there when his son needed him most.
Payments made under a charitable gift annuity are backed solely by the full faith and credit of the issuing organization, are not insured or guaranteed by an insurance company, are not protected by any insurance guaranty association, and are not backed in any way by the states.
Dreams Don’t Die: One Family’s Story of Hope
Claire Peterson (Her Gift)
Claire and Rod Peterson were a successful TV writing-producing team. Ernie Wallengren, one of Claire’s five children, would follow in her footsteps and also go on to have a career writing for television, working on such shows as Life Goes On, Baywatch, and Doc.
After experiencing weakness in his legs and frequent falls, Ernie was diagnosed with ALS in 2001. Rod and Claire, who were retired and living in Arizona, relocated to southern California to be near Ernie. “It was there that I first became aware of the daily challenges and heartbreaks of the disease,” Claire remembers. “Both the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of The ALS Association and the National Office were nearby, and we were able to take advantage of their support and the many services they offered.”
Ernie lost his battle with ALS in May 2003. Ernie was 51, leaving behind a wife and five children. Before Ernie died, The Association approached the family about establishing a research fund in his name. “Ernie decided that stem cell research was ultimately the most promising approach to finding a cure for ALS, and so The E.F. Wallengren Fund for ALS Research was founded,” Claire says, to keep Ernie’s dream of a cure alive.
Recently, Claire was looking for ways to combine a gift to ALSA with income that would supplement her pension. “It seemed natural to take advantage of ALSA’s gift annuity program. My donation not only provides me with generous payments but a helpful tax deduction as well.” Claire’s gift annuity has been earmarked for the Fund that bears her son’s name.
“I am gratified to have been able to make a substantial gift to ALSA, and I challenge anyone affected by ALS to research the various gift options ALSA offers.” Claire urges. “Down the line, there will be a cure and you will want to know that you were a part of it.”
More donor stories and useful articles on charitable planning can be found in each issue of our newsletter.
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