Woman's donations top $2 million

September 29, 2000

Woman's donations top $2 million


Donations from Washington County resident Louise Sutter include, approximate numbers:

$1.2 million to the Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown.

$240,000 to the Washington County Historical Society.

$240,000 to the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

$240,000 to the Washington County Free Library.

$120,000 to the Zonta Club of Washington County.

$120,000 to the Hagerstown Day Nursery.

$120,000 to the Maryland Theatre.

$120,000 to Hagerstown Community College.

Source: Her last will and testament filed at Washington County Register of Wills


Local groups were stunned this week to learn a Washington County woman left $2.4 million to eight organizations, including $1.2 million to her church of more than 80 years.

Few friends of Louise Sutter, who died in December at age 94, knew the friendly and outspoken woman had so much money.

"We used to talk about stocks quite often. She had Coca-Cola stock for so long it just doubled and doubled," said Eva Thieblot, a friend of Sutter's for 30 years.

According to her will, Sutter left half of her estate to the Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown, on Prospect Street.

"I had no idea she had that kind of money. She lived a humble life," said Pastor John Ailstock.

Sutter also bequeathed $241,644 each to the Washington County Historical Society, the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and the Washington County Free Library. She left about $120,000 each to the Zonta Club, the Hagerstown Day Nursery, the Maryland Theatre and Hagerstown Community College.

Church officials knew six or seven months ago that Sutter had left the church money, but they had no idea the donation would be so large, Ailstock said.

Library Director Mary Baykan, who called Sutter "a pleasant lady who appreciated library resources," said the library board of directors will determine how to use the bequest.

"She obviously loved her community and its resources and wanted them to go on and flourish," said Baykan. "This is a wonderful legacy and we are so amazed and touched by her generosity."

Jean Woods, director of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, was one of the few who knew of the fortune Sutter had amassed.

Woods said Sutter told her about 12 years ago of her intention to leave 10 percent of her estate to the museum.

"She was a longtime member of the museum and was very active in many of our programs," Woods said.

The $241,000 bequest will go directly into the museum's endowment fund, Woods said.

"She was just a marvelous person," said Marjorie S. Peters, who was the Historical Society's executive director for 23 years before retiring in December 1998.

Sutter helped teach her about people, places and events in Hagerstown and about Washington County history, Peters said. She also volunteered with the Historical Society, leading tours of the Miller House and any performing other tasks.

Hagerstown Community College President Norman Shea said he had never met Sutter. While appreciative of her $120,000 bequest to the college, he said he did not know the reason for it.

She said his guess is the college received the donation as a result of Sutter's work with the Zonta Club of Washington County.

Sutter had no living relatives, and members of the Presbyterian Church were among her closest friends, said Clara Szumetz, Sutter's deacon from the church.

Sutter began attending the church regularly as a child in 1918 and continued until her final years when it was harder for her to come because the former Hagerstown resident was living at the Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village in Boonsboro.

Szumetz, who was close to Sutter during the last decade, said she had no idea of her wealth.

"She never talked about the money she had," she said

"She was intelligent, articulate and an avid reader who knew the latest books and was very interested in politics," Szumetz said. "She loved watching 'Jeopardy!' and 'The Larry King Show.' "

Szumetz said Sutter was a fountain of information about the early days of Hagerstown and was always interested in people, something that probably came from owning a beauty salon for many years.

Sutter invested the money she earned from the beauty salon and six apartments she owned on Potomac Avenue. She also inherited some money from her mother.

An earlier account placed the amount of the total bequest at $2 million and the church bequest at $1 million, due to a source's error.

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