PORT TOWNSEND — Betsy June Decker shared her legacy with communities across the North Olympic Peninsula, astonishing people in the process.
Dividing her estate roughly into thirds, Decker, who died in 2019 at age 91, bequeathed large gifts to Port Townsend’s Chetzemoka Park, to Peninsula Friends of Animals west of Sequim and to Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County, based in Port Angeles.
The Port Townsend City Council formally accepted Decker’s bequest of $127,000 for upkeep of the 6.5-acre city park during Monday night’s business meeting.
She had often walked her dog at Chetzemoka Park, City Manager John Mauro reported, and included no restrictions on her gift to the place where a grassy slope, gazebo and swing set look out to Admiralty Inlet.
“What a huge gift and blessing,” Public Works Director Steve King said in an interview, adding he anticipates engaging the city parks board to talk through how to use the influx.
The restroom and kitchen shelter are in rough shape, he said. The fence along the bluff needs to be replaced, and the tall trees need attention, too.
Chetzemoka Park, named for the S’Klallam chief who sought peace when white settlers were moving into Port Townsend, is 117 years old, the oldest in the city’s collection of parks. A marker and map box stands at the entrance at Jackson and Blaine streets, inviting visitors to travel the Chetzemoka Trail, an interpretive path that runs through the city.
The park’s gazebo, reconstructed in 1991, serves as a bandstand and an outdoor classroom, while the lawn provides space for yoga, ballgames, picnics and meditation.
Swings, slides, benches and tables dot the park, and another trail descends to the water’s edge.
Decker’s legacy will also included a bequest of $131,000 to Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County (VHOCC.org), said development manager Julie Kramer. The nearly 43-year-old nonprofit organization provides free grief support, medical equipment loans, and support and care for terminally ill people and their families.
At Peninsula Friends of Animals (safehavenPFOA.org), executive director Danette Grady said Decker’s gift comes at a financially tough time. The nonprofit runs a no-kill shelter and adoption center primarily for cats at 257509 U.S. Highway 101; a pet food bank and low-cost spay-neuter clinics are also part of its mission.
The $127,000 bequest is “mind-boggling,” Grady said, “like manna from heaven.”
PFOA has been unable to hold its usual fundraisers since the advent of the pandemic.
Decker had been a supporter of PFOA since 2008, Grady added, but she and Decker had never met.
The bequest will help not only the current residents of the animal shelter, she said, but also “future generations, to get the medical care they need, and the general care.”
Since receiving the news last week, Grady said, “our hearts are full.”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]