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Norwalk Hospital To Receive $40 Million From Woman's Estate

A Westport woman bequested $40 million in her estate. Ruth Bedford Thomas, who died last year, also left $40 million for the Westport Weston YMCA.
A Westport woman bequested $40 million in her estate. Ruth Bedford Thomas, who died last year, also left $40 million for the Westport Weston YMCA. Photo Credit: Facebook/Norwalk Hospital

NORWALK, Conn. -- The estate of a longtime Westport resident who died last June is donating $40 million to the Westport Weston Family YMCA and Norwalk Hospital.

Ruth Thomas Bedford, a longtime Westport resident, actively supported both the Family YMCA and Norwalk Hospital. She died June 15, 2014, at the age of 99.

A YMCA trustee emeritus, Bedford was instrumental in helping the Family YMCA to renovate and expand its original downtown Westport location during the 1980s. She was also a generous donor and longtime volunteer at Norwalk Hospital, where she logged nearly 17,000 volunteer hours in the hospital gift shop over five decades. 

At Norwalk Hospital, a task force of volunteer and administrative leaders is carefully evaluating options to maximize the transformative impact of the Bedford bequest, with a goal of enhancing the Hospital’s patient care programs and services to best serve the Greater Norwalk community.

“We are thrilled to have received this wonderful gift, the latest chapter in the Bedford family’s long legacy of generous support of Norwalk Hospital,” said Edward B. Mahony, chairman of Norwalk Hospital’s Board of Directors.

At the YMCA, it is expected that this endowment will ensure the long-term viability of the Westport Weston Family YMCA and its ability to serve the community, with funds earmarked for current and future capital development needs and to endow programs for wellness and youth in a way that honors the tradition of the Bedford family legacy. 

“Ruth Bedford’s family has been indispensable to the YMCA for more then eight decades.  We are determined to make the family proud of how we will use this generous bequest," said Pete Wolgast, chairman of the Family YMCA’s Board of Trustees, which oversees the organization’s investments and endowments.

Bedford was the last surviving grandchild of Edward T. Bedford, an oil executive and philanthropist who founded the Family YMCA and whose personal and philanthropic leadership was instrumental to the growth and expansion of Norwalk Hospital.

He personally underwrote the cost of the Hospital’s Bedford Pavilion, which doubled the hospital’s patient capacity in 1929. Industrialist Frederick T. Bedford, Ruth Bedford’s father, helped the Family YMCA to purchase land that eventually became Camp Mahackeno, its summer day camp and expansion site.  He and his wife, Lucie Thomas Bedford, were also generous Norwalk Hospital donors.

“The profound impact of a gift of this magnitude to the greater Norwalk and Westport communities is difficult to quantify,” said Barbara Butler, a Norwalk Hospital board member and director of human services for the town of Westport. “Clearly, we are extremely grateful. Ruth Bedford’s legacy will touch the lives of men, women and children in our community for generations to come.”   

A third beneficiary of Ruth Bedford’s estate is the Foxcroft School, a girls boarding and day school in Virginia, where Bedford spent her high school years.

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