23 years ago today, Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago announced it had received an $18 million donation from a mystery woman. It was the largest donation they had ever been given.
She was known in the hospital as simply the “Teddy Bear Lady”, because she had been coming to the hospital for years to give Teddy Bears to ill children.
Her name was Gladys Holm. She was a secretary for a supply company. She never married, and never made a salary of more than $15,000 a year.
But…..she had been quietly playing the stock market by investing a little out of each paycheck, year after year.
When she was younger, the child of one of her friends was terribly ill, and looked like she might die. Children’s Memorial hospital saved the child, and Ms. Holm wanted to do what she could to help them save more kids. (That child is now a professor at the University of Alabama)
When she took the teddy bears to the child patients, it was actually a way to learn about the family and their financial situation. When she learned about a family who didn’t have the ability to pay for the proper medical care, she would quietly take care of them.
When she passed away at the age of 86 in 1997, she had amassed a fortune of $18 million. She gave every single penny of it to the Children’s Hospital.
She outlived all of her family and most of her friends. When she died, only 25 people attended her funeral. Most of them were old and frail, and there weren’t enough able bodies to be pall bearers. A graveyard employee had to help carry her casket.
But…..one fan who knew all that Gladys had given made sure that every seat at that small service was occupied by a Teddy Bear.
Sadly, I couldn’t find a picture of her…..but at least now her story is known by a few more.