Woman celebrated years after her death for $2M donation to charity

Mary Tash died in 2009. She left her entire estate, valued at $2 million, to Los Angeles, California's Ventura County Community Foundation.

Since then, her fortune has funded scholarships and grants for students in need, housing projects for farm workers and anti-domestic-abuse programs.

Only now is her story being told, thanks to an article in the foundation's newsletter.

Widowed twice by 1965, the Scotland-born legal secretary lived modestly and frugally, accumulating her wealth solely through saving.

"In her high school yearbook, Mary described her ambition as being a private secretary. She accomplished that ambition in a spectacular way, serving first as secretary to noted Oxnard attorney, Ben E. Nordman, in 1947, and then adding future Presiding Judge Jerome H. Berenson (while he was a partner with Ben Nordman). She served as private secretary to Ben Nordman and Ralph L. Cormany until Ben Nordman’s death in December 1985, and she retired in 2002. Altogether, Mary worked for the resulting law firm of Nordman, Cormany, Hair & Compton for 55 years. Her notary acknowledgement was stamped on many important documents recorded in Ventura County in those years. At the law firm, Mary was the lead secretary and unofficially the first office manager. She was well known to the clients since all passed by her desk first," the Ventura County Community Foundation posted about her life.

Her only daughter, Mimi, died on Tash's 82nd birthday. Mimi never married, nor did she have any children. So with no family to leave her estate to, Tash "decided that she wanted to leave the assets that she had accumulated from her long and productive career and frugal habits to be used by the Ventura County Community Foundation as an endowment to support general charitable purposes."

“She is a classic American story," Tash's friend Laura K. McAvoy, a founding director of the foundation, told the newsletter's editor.

“It is remarkable what Mary saved and was able to leave for charity in Ventura County.”

"We at VCCF are honoured to be charged with the stewardship of Mrs. Tash's legacy. We know how hard she worked to earn and save it so we are proud to put her money to work making a difference here in Ventura County," Hugh J. Ralston told the Ventura County Star.