Harvey and Dorothy Rose lived a simple life.
Neither had a high-paying job — Harvey was a carpenter and Dorothy, who worked at Napa State Hospital before marriage, was a homemaker who also worked part-time for 30 years in a doctor’s office. For more than 50 years, they lived in a modest Alta Heights home on East Avenue.
You’d never have guessed the couple would become millionaire philanthropists, but that’s exactly what they became.
“This is what happens when people are thrifty and they invest wisely,” said longtime family friend Sudie Pollock.
Harvey and Dorothy “were peace-filled people, comfortable with what they had and grateful for their blessings,” said Pollock. Harvey died in 2011 at age 93 and Dorothy in 2014 at age 85.
Unbeknownst to those around them, the couple had made arrangements to donate almost $1 million to four charities with local ties.
Pollock’s parents lived next door to the Roses for many years. Harvey and Dorothy didn’t have any children or family close by, so the two families grew close.
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“She was sweet,” said Pollock of Dorothy Rose. And so was Harvey. “They were very gentle people,” living unassuming, frugal lives, she said.
A number of years before their deaths, the Roses asked Pollock to be their trustee and executor.
“I said, ‘That’s such an honor.’”
At first, she didn’t have any idea of the extent of their estate, Pollock said. “I knew they had the house, but I no idea what their investments were.”
After Dorothy passed, the couple’s intentions became known. According to Dorothy’s instructions, approximately $235,000 each was given to the Queen of the Valley Foundation, Collabria Care (formerly Napa Valley Hospice & Adult Day Service), the Salvation Army and the California Eastern Star Foundation’s cancer research branch.
The estate was recently finalized and Pollock sent the checks to the four nonprofits in March.
Joanne Sutro, director development and communications at Collabria Care in Napa, said that the gift from the Roses was a surprise. “To say that we were ecstatic is not an understatement,” she said.
In the past 10 years, the nonprofit has received fewer than six estate gifts of such magnitude.
“We get a lot of modest donations, but a major gift like this, an estate gift of these proportions, is pretty special.”
The gift also comes with some sadness because “I didn’t get to thank them,” Sutro said.
Sutro never met the Roses, but if she had, “I would ask what prompted their generosity to us. There’s always a story, and I would love to hear what their story is.”
The money will be used to support unfunded or charity patient care and services at Collabria, including caregiver support groups, training, grief counseling and family consultations.
“Sometimes people think that they can’t support causes in a significant way. But a planned gift such as this makes it possible to have a huge impact on charities,” said Sutro.
Damon Tinnon, director of gift planning at Queen of the Valley Medical Center Foundation, said he talked with Dorothy a number of times on the phone, but she passed away before they could meet in person.
Tinnon said he knew the donation was planned but didn’t know the amount.
“She felt she had been blessed in her life and wanted to do something,” said Tinnon.
Donors like Dorothy and Harvey weren’t the kind of couple that attended galas to bid hundreds of thousands in auctions, he said.
People like the Roses “are more under the radar but have this idea about giving. She just saw the Queen as valuable and wanted to do something very significant.”
Receiving such a major gift “never gets old,” said Tinnon. Holding a check in the six figures, “you’re just floored.”
For their donation, Dorothy and Harvey’s names will be listed on the “Hall of Honor” at the hospital entrance with others who have donated between $200,000 and $500,000.
“It’s amazing,” said Tinnon.
The Rose donation likely to be used for new programs and services, including projects like the new cardiac catheter lab, cancer center and advanced training, officials said.
Tinnon said the Roses came from a generation of people whose legacy was important.
“These are people who weren’t just living for today. It matters to them how the Rose family name is known while they were gone. That’s certainly something we want to see more of,” he said.
Dorna Bashor knew the Roses from Dorothy’s membership in the Mason’s Eastern Star organization. Dorothy belonged for more than 60 years, Bashor estimated. She helped raise funds for many causes, including eye and cancer research.
The two women met in the 1960s. Dorothy was “a very elegant lady” who stood about 6 feet tall, recalled Bashor. “She was so nice. She never said a bad word about anybody.”
“They had a beautiful home, but they didn’t waste money,” said Bashor. “I think she made about all of her clothes. It was something she was raised to do.”
She was surprised to hear that the couple left such significant gifts. “I knew they were comfortable. I had no idea they had that kind of money.”
She hopes word of their generosity will spread, Bashor said.
“It might make other people get in there and give a little. I’m sure there are many people around this county that could give a little bit more to help others out.”
The $235,000 gift to the Salvation Army went to the organization’s national headquarters, Pollock said. It could not be determined Friday how the Salvation Army, which runs a variety of programs to help people in need, would use the money.
Pollock said she’s glad the Roses had the foresight to think about doing this for the community.
“I want more people to realize if they think about it, they, too, can leave a legacy like this, rather than have a new car every five years or the biggest house on the block,” she said.
“If they saved, they could make a gift like this to help many people.”