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Nurse's bequest leaves $2.1 million to aid Rock Island County nonprofits
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Nurse's bequest leaves $2.1 million to aid Rock Island County nonprofits

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Rosemary Woodward loved Rock Island and many area nonprofits. That passion and her longtime commitment to volunteerism will live on with a $2.1 million gift from her estate to the Rock Island Community Foundation.

"This is a great day for philanthropy in Rock Island," foundation executive director Gary Rowe said Wednesday at Quad City Botanical Center, announcing the largest gift in the organization's 53-year history.

"Mrs. Woodward's generosity will benefit our community for many years to come," he said.

Woodward, 93, of Rock Island, died May 26, 2019. A veteran nurse, she married Harry Keith Woodward in 1965; he died in 1993. They had no children. She worked for the Davenport School District as a school nurse for 28 years, and previously worked as a private-duty nurse and at St. Luke's Hospital, Davenport.

An active gardener, she was a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, Davenport, the Quad City Botanical Center in Rock Island; and the Rock Island County Historical Society. Woodward also volunteered at the Red Cross for over 43 years.

"Her life of service will continue" through her estate, family attorney Mark Schwiebert said, noting that 5% of the gift (or about $100,000) will be annually distributed to eight groups, eligible to apply each year.

Those are the botanical center, Rock Island Parks and Recreation, Niabi Zoo, YWCA, Rock Island-Milan Education Foundation, Christian Family Care, Trinity Visiting Nurse and Homecare Association, and Rock Island Library Foundation.

"She was very special," Woodward's nephew, Steve Woodward, of Geneseo, said Wednesday, noting her aunt and uncle earned a good deal of money from stock investments.

"She was just a caring person," he said. "If she was here today, she'd be so happy to see all you guys. She was committed to Rock Island."

She also loved to travel the world, Woodward said, including trips to Europe, Middle East and China. While in China, she taught conversational English through Global Volunteers.

Representatives of many of the eight organizations were at the announcement, including Ami Porter, executive director of the Botanical Center, who said Woodward's estate donated $25,000 directly to the center at her death.

"It's humbling and also exciting for what it can do for the center," Porter said. "To have the opportunity to write for that funding every year, we are so grateful."

"She had a special affinity for kids, so if there's something we can do with our educational programs or to expand our children's garden, we'll be looking in those directions," Porter said.

The Community Foundation, founded in 1967, has nearly doubled its assets — to almost $4 million — with the new gift, and has made over $1.9 million in grants over its history to 208 nonprofit organizations.

Foundation board president Jennifer Walker said they were "very honored" to receive the Woodwards' gift.

Schwiebert said that it was rare, in his four decades of working in estate planning, that families showed such generosity for local nonprofit groups. "Her gift will continue to give forever," he said.

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