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Goodyear assistant makes largest gift in Millennium Fund's history

Older woman with dog
Jane Palmer with one of her beloved Boston Terriers.

It was the 1999 Thanksgiving issue of the Akron Beacon Journal that first drew Jane Palmer's attention to the Millennium Fund for Children.

Editors at the newspaper had taken advantage of the holiday weekend to announce the establishment of their new endowment fund, which they created to improve the lives of children in the paper's five-county circulation area. They included a donation coupon with the announcement and asked readers to give their last hour's pay of the 20th century to benefit children in the 21st century and beyond.

Jane, a retired executive assistant who was living on a fixed income at the time, went above and beyond the newspaper's call. She mailed the donation coupon back with a check for $3,000, becoming one of the Millennium Fund's first – and largest – donors.

"She loved the Millennium Fund," said Marilyn Schultz, a longtime friend of Jane's who cared for her during her later years. "She felt it was important that kids get an education and whatever help they needed."

Over the next decade, Jane continued to give to the Millennium Fund every year, both during its annual campaign season and throughout the year. She often paid tribute to her loved ones by making gifts to the fund to support children's causes in their name. Over the course of 10 years, Jane gave more than $27,000.

Woman stands in front of large flower bush
Jane was an avid gardener who had a passion for nature, animals and children.

But it wasn't until Jane passed away in October 2015 that her greatest gift would come to fruition. As a widow with no children of her own, Jane selected three charities to benefit from her estate. One of those charities was the Millennium Fund, and in July 2016, the fund received her generous bequest of $81,883.44.

"She had it very clearly spelled out in her head what she wanted to do (in her will)," said William Sremack, Jane's attorney of more than 15 years. "She spoke very strongly about the Millennium Fund, and she thought it was the appropriate vehicle for that."

Jane's bequest represents the largest single gift in the Millennium Fund's history and will enable the fund to increase its annual grantmaking to vital children's programs in Greater Akron. It's a fitting legacy for a woman who devoted her life to caring for others.

"She volunteered everywhere – at her church, the Salvation Army, Stan Hywet," Schultz said. "She was very kind and well-liked."

Born in January 1922, Jane grew up in Pennsylvania before moving to Akron. She married Roland Palmer and made a career at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, where she worked as an executive assistant for 35 years. When she retired in 1987, she was known and beloved by nearly everyone at the company.

With no children of her own, Jane spent countless hours volunteering for causes that she was passionate about, particularly children and animals. She was a member of the Women's Auxiliary of the Salvation Army and a volunteer at Akron General Medical Center. In her obituary, she asked that donations be made to the Humane Society of Greater Akron in her memory.

Jane also loved to travel, and after her husband passed away in 1984, Jane spent much of her time traveling the world with ladies from work. They took several trips overseas on famous ocean liners like the Queen Elizabeth 2, making memories that would last a lifetime.

Woman smiling and driving bus
Jane went on adventures all over the world, including this trip to the Canadian Rockies.

"She was very adventurous," Schultz said, recalling a trip to Pennsylvania where Jane asked to have her picture taken on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. On another occasion, they traveled through Canada on a bus, and Jane talked the bus driver into letting her get a photo in the driver's seat.

"She was funny," Schultz recalled fondly. "She loved to dance."

In her final years, Jane struggled with dementia, but her caring nature continued to shine through. She developed close relationships with her neighbors and brightened the day of everyone who crossed her path.

"She was just a really great person to talk to," Sremack said. "She's going to be missed by a lot of people – people who directly knew her and people who may have never met her (but will benefit from her generosity)."

In addition to the Millennium Fund, Jane also left her church and Furnace Street Mission in her will. Her goal, in Sremack's words, was to "bring a great deal of benefit to children and people that need it."

Thanks to Jane's gift to the Millennium Fund, the lives of children throughout our community will be enriched year after year, preserving Jane's legacy for generations to come.

You, too, can leave a greater legacy than you ever thought possible with an estate gift. Learn more

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