Woman Bequeaths $1 Million to National Parks in Washington State

With views like this one of Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, it's easy to see why Wallace loved Washington's parks so much. (Photo: Andrey Taratin/Shutterstock)

Elizabeth "Bette" Wallace was not born in Washington state, nor did she die there. But the 14 years that she lived there as a child obviously made quite an impression on her. Cheri Ryan, Wallace's niece and the trustee of the Elizabeth Ruth Wallace Living Trust, recently announced that her aunt bequeathed $1 million to three of Washington's national parks.

According to her obituary, Wallace was born in Taylor Creek, Montana. She spent much of her teens and early 20s traveling while working as a civilian for the U.S. Army before she and her husband settled in Mountain View, California. But it was Wallace's formative years — spent in Sonomish County, Washington (just north of Seattle) — that clearly made an impression on her nature-loving soul.

Before her passing in 2016, Wallace established the trust fund in her name which was to be used to support causes that were near and dear to her heart. Her niece oversees the estate and the trust's donations. Wallace's trust has donated $1 million to Hopelink, a Washington nonprofit that serves the area homeless, $500,000 to Washington area schools, $500,000 to Washington community parks and recreation fund, and $2 million to the University of Washington School of Pharmacy (the alma mater of Wallace's husband, Bryan Walker Wallace, who proceeded her in death.)

Now, the Elizabeth Ruth Wallace Living Trust is making another sizable community donation, this time to the Washington National Park Fund (WNPF), a nonprofit that supports Washington state's three national parks — Mount Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades. (These are the three top-level national parks in the state, but as one reader smartly points out, there are a total of 13 national park sites, which include historic trails, historic parks and recreation areas.)

According to the WNPF, the $1 million gift, the biggest single donation it has ever received, will be divided evenly between the three national parks. Olympic and Mount Rainier plan to use their portion to purchase a new dispatch system to improve communication with rangers working in wilderness areas. North Cascades National Park will use its funds to upgrade park infrastructure and improve support for its volunteer network.

Thanks to Wallace, the national parks in Washington will have a little more breathing room in their budgets to concentrate on the NPS mission of protecting park resources now and in the future.