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Woman leaves Maryland Theatre more than $120,000

September 28, 2000

Woman leaves Maryland Theatre more than $120,000



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer


A Washington County woman has bequeathed $120,807 to the Maryland Theatre and about $120,000 to the Zonta Club of Washington County.

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With the donation, the theater will be debt-free for the first time in more than 10 years, Executive Director Patricia Wolford said Thursday.

The donations came from Louise Sutter, who was a patron of the theater and a member of the Zonta Club.

Sutter died in December 1999 at the age of 94.

She had lived at the Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village in Boonsboro in recent years, but Sutter had been a Hagerstown resident for many years before that, said Washington County Commissioner Paul L. Swartz, who had known her for years.

Sutter was a single lady with no remaining family in the area, he said.

Swartz and other friends of Sutter said she made her money by investing what she made from a beauty salon and six apartments she owned on Potomac Avenue.

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Jean Roth first met Sutter in 1934 when she moved into one of those apartments, where she still resides.

She knew Sutter had some money but had no idea it was so much, Roth said. The Zonta Club knew a donation was coming but members were shocked at the amount, she said.

"We were very surprised," she said.

"It is just awesome," said Janice Porter, a Zonta Club member who had known Sutter for years.

Sutter did lots of traveling overseas during her approximately 50 years with the club, Roth said. She was president of the club from 1967 to 1969, she said.

Sutter was not the type of person to brag or talk about having a great deal of money, Roth said.

"She was just a common, ordinary person," she said.

"You would not have known she had that kind of money. She would never talk about it," Porter said.

Sutter was a wonderful, nice woman with a great sense of humor, she said.

The donation to the Zonta Club will go into a foundation used for charitable donations, she said.

"We hope to put it to good use in the community," she said.

Sutter was active in the club, which is an international group that helps women and children throughout the world, she said.

Swartz, who sits on the Maryland Theatre's board of directors, praised the donation to the theater.

"We are glad we have patrons that recognize the value the theater," he said.

Sutter attended productions at the theater for years, he said.

"She thought it was just a lovely, lovely theater and really enjoyed theatrical productions. I guess she made up her mind a long time ago that she was going to help them in some shape or form. She was a very lovely lady," he said.

About $70,000 of the donation to the theater will be used to retire the theater's debt, Wolford said.

The rest of the money will pay for improvements, including some type of permanent artifact in Sutter's memory, Wolford said. She had not decided what that would be, but said she was leaning toward a chandelier.

Sutter's contribution is probably the largest ever made to the theater, Wolford said.

Wolford said she knew Sutter was going to make a donation but never thought it would be such a big one. Contributions usually are in the $1,000 to $1,500 range.

When she opened the envelope from the bank she saw a check for $8,000 and figured that would help pay some capital expenses.

Then she saw a second check, that one for $108,000, and couldn't believe her eyes, Wolford said.

"They could not contain me in my seat," she said.

The theater started the calendar year with a $105,000 debt, and has been paying about $2,600 a month in recent months to pay off the debt, she said.

Not having to make monthly debt payments will free up money from the theater's operational budget, she said.

The theater has been in debt, sometimes by as much as $250,000, since the 1980s, Wolford said.

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