A $1.6 million bequest to Southwestern Medical Foundation from a Dallas secretary whose longtime friends describe as "humble, frugal and elegant" will support cancer, stroke and ophthalmology research at UT Southwestern.
The gift from Jimmie LaFollette, representing her entire estate, will further research programs focused on non-Hodgkin lymphoma, intracranial hemorrhagic stroke, macular degeneration and glaucoma. Ms. LaFollette died from lymphoma in 2010, and her beloved mother suffered from the other three diseases until her death in 2003.
Funds from the bequest have established the Jimmie C. LaFollette Fund for Research in Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, in Memory of Louise L. Roos; the Jimmie C. LaFollette Fund for Research in Intracerebral Hemorrhage Stroke, in Memory of Louise L. Roos; the Jimmie C. LaFollette Fund for Research in Macular Degeneration, in Memory of Louise L. Roos; and the Jimmie C. LaFollette Fund for Research in Glaucoma, in Memory of Louise L. Roos.
"The fact that Jimmie and her mother have done so much with their modest salaries is quite remarkable and a tribute to their ongoing dedication to the community around them," said Bruce Mooney, a lifelong friend of both women and co-executor of Ms. LaFollette's estate. "It has been a true honor to carry Jimmie's wishes forth, and it is incredibly gratifying to watch her plans be set in motion. She was proud to be able to invest in the future of UT Southwestern and, in doing so, contribute to generations of patients to come."
Ms. LaFollette, who was born in McKinney, Texas, in 1928, died at the age of 82. She began working in the 1940s and spent most of her career as a private secretary in the oil business. After a brief marriage she returned to live with her widowed mother, in whose memory Ms. LaFollette made the bequest.
She and her mother, Louise LaFollette Roos, were "extraordinarily close," explained Mr. Mooney, who met the pair after he graduated from college in 1965 and became a boarder in their home. Ms. Roos was a seamstress at Neiman Marcus for 30 years and had her design work featured in an exhibit organized by the University Of North Texas Department Of Design. She and Ms. LaFollette saved and invested, amassing a "hard-earned nest egg that they were determined to leave to a good cause," he said.
A portion of Ms. LaFollette's estate will support research on macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older. The disease, which affects the macula-the part of the eye that allows one to see fine detail, destroys sharp, central vision.
Another part of the gift will support research on glaucoma, an eye condition that develops when excessive fluid pressure builds up inside the eye, causing damage to the optic nerve.
One-third of the gift will foster research into the prevention of intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a diseased blood vessel within the brain bursts, allowing blood to leak inside the brain. The most common cause of this type of stroke is high blood pressure. The remaining amount of the bequest will further research into non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphoid tissue, which includes the lymph nodes, spleen and other organs of the immune system.