Elizabeth Ruth “Bette” Wallace grew up in Alderwood Manor, one of eight Stadler children. A 1942 Edmonds High School graduate, she worked for the U.S. Army in Alaska and Japan. Settled in California, she helped her pharmacist husband run their drugstores. She had a travel agency. And she bought rental properties — in what became Silicon Valley.
Wallace’s death, in 2016, didn’t end her story. Because of a trust established in her name, millions and millions of dollars have been donated to nonprofits. Here and in California, her legacy will live on for generations.
A zest for life and love of travel took Wallace to far-flung locales, Switzerland to Singapore. She also adored her home team, the San Francisco 49ers. After she died, at age 92, her name lit up the video screen at Levi’s Stadium, the NFL team’s field in Santa Clara.
“She’d be thrilled about that,” said Cheri Ryan, Wallace’s niece, who lives in Bothell.
Herald readers first learned about the Elizabeth Ruth Wallace Living Trust in October 2017. That’s when Everett Museum of History Executive Director Barbara George revealed that an anonymous donor’s $3 million pledge to buy a building — possibly the old Longfellow School — had been made by the Elizabeth Ruth Wallace Living Trust.
By Christmas 2017, the museum group had used the donation to buy a different building, its new home at 2939 Colby Ave. in downtown Everett. That building once housed The Everett Daily Herald.
The generosity born of Wallace’s real estate wealth didn’t stop there. That $3 million museum donation was the largest of about 30 major gifts distributed by the Wallace trust.
“It’s so special,” said Laurie Ward, executive director of Washington’s National Park Fund, which earlier this month announced it had received $1 million from the Wallace trust. “As they got to know us, they said ‘You know better than we do which needs are greatest,’ ” Ward said Monday.
Washington’s National Park Fund is the philanthropic partner of Mount Rainier, North Cascades and Olympic national parks.
Ward said the money will serve two purposes. At Mount Rainier and Olympic parks, it will buy and set up a computer-aided dispatch system. That will help dispatch operators monitor rangers working in the wilderness — they’ll see the whereabouts of park workers on one display, improving safety.
North Cascades National Park will use the money to improve things for its hundreds of volunteers, who help through the park’s visitor center, educational offerings, campground hosting and other programs.
Cheri Ryan is overseeing the gifts along with her brother, Kevin Stadler, of Woodinville, and her husband, Pat Ryan. In her Aunt Bette’s last years, Ryan often visited her home in Mountain View, California. Wallace was definite about some recipients of proceeds from her real estate’s sales.
One major beneficiary was the University of Washington School of Pharmacy, which in November announced a $2 million gift from the Wallace trust. The late Bryan Wallace, Bette’s husband, graduated from the pharmacy school in 1939. They had no children.
Bryan and Bette Wallace worked together in their Bay Area store, Bryan’s Drug, and had another California drugstore. “She and my uncle worked hard,” Ryan said. Despite the millions her property would net, Wallace didn’t live extravagantly. “She loved to wear T-shirts and sweatpants,” Ryan said.
Another $2 million gift went to the Community Services Agency in her adopted hometown of Mountain View. “She wanted to give money to help seniors stay in their homes,” Ryan said.
Seattle-based Food Lifeline will get $1 million, she said, and the Redmond nonprofit Hopelink also received $1 million from the trust. Other gifts went to PBS broadcasters in Washington and California and to Habitat for Humanity.
Among donations in Snohomish County, the Wallace trust recently gave $500,000 to the Lynnwood Parks and Recreation Foundation to build a playground and restore the water tower at Heritage Park.
A recently announced $200,000 donation to the Page Ahead Children Literacy Program will give books to hundreds of children from low-income homes in the Edmonds School District. And in January, the Foundation for Edmonds School District received $500,000 from the trust. Ryan said her aunt, all seven of her siblings, and 15 nieces and nephews attended Edmonds district schools.
Also locally, the Wallace trust sponsored the current “Modern Alaska” exhibit at the Cascadia Art Museum in Edmonds. Bette Wallace’s brother, Emil Stadler, moved to Alaska in 1936 and lived there 70 years. And $150,000 was given to area Camp Fire programs.
Ryan didn’t share the total to be given from the Elizabeth Ruth Wallace Living Trust, but said “it’s one and done.”
“My hope, by the end of the year, is to have the estate closed out,” Ryan said. “She trusted us. She wanted to see things be done, and leave a legacy.”