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$6M gift from Lake Lillian native doubles foundation's assets

The Willmar Area Community Foundation will present its 2011 Award in Philanthropy to Alice Erickson Cox, 97, of Willmar.

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Area Community Foundation announces it has been designated to receive the entire estate of Lake Lillian native and Willmar resident Alice Cox, who was 97 when she died Dec. 29.

The gift of her estate, valued at more than $6 million, will double the Foundation's assets, according to a spokesman.

"This is truly an extraordinary gift from an extraordinary woman," said Foundation Director Dean Anderson of Spicer. "Alice believed in the Willmar area, and through this gift, she will be making an impact that will last the generations."

Cox was born and raised in Lake Lillian. She lived most of her adult life in California, but returned to Willmar in 2004.

Her unrestricted gift will establish the Joe and Alice C. Cox Fund within the foundation.

"This is a transformational gift for our foundation and for our community for which we are extremely grateful," said Foundation Board Chair John Lindstrom of New London.

"The board will be working carefully over the next months to ensure that Alice's extraordinary gift has abiding benefits for our community, and we truly honor Alice's confidence in the Community Foundation,'' said Lindstrom.

Cox received the Foundation's Award in Philanthropy in October 2011.

She had four brothers and three sisters and all were responsible for hauling wood and cleaning and helping with chores before many of the modern conveniences became available.

She earned a bachelor's degree at St. Cloud Teachers College (now St. Could State University).

She moved to Los Angeles in 1942 but was unable to teach in California because she was not certified there and worked as a receptionist at the phone company.

She met Joe at a supper club in Los Angeles. His family of nine came from Oklahoma.

They traveled to Oregon by wagon train and settled in a small house where they could farm.

Joe had only a fifth-grade education.

He was in the logging business and wondered how a simple beetle could cut through wood so fast. He viewed one under a microscope and, based on the beetle's technique, invented and patented the chain for chain saws. Alice said that one invention enabled them to live a good life and she was grateful.

The couple had no children. Joe died in 2002 at age 97 and Alice returned to Willmar to be near relatives and friends.

"Alice and Joe were humble and had a strong faith,'' Anderson said. "Generations from now, our community will be able to look back on today and see how a gift can have an extraordinary impact. It is our privilege to carry on their legacy through this gift.''

The Willmar Area Community Foundation is a public charity that attracts and administers charitable funds for the benefit of the local community. Since 1998, the foundation has now grown to more than $12 million in assets and awarded $2 million in grants to local nonprofits.

The foundation is affiliated with the Central Minnesota Community Foundation, which administers more than 500 funds and has more than $70 million in assets. More information is available at Willmar.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150