Nancy Hamon Leaves $5 Million for CPMC
By Kimberly Carlisle
“I hope my last check will bounce.”
These were the words of straight-talking and quick-witted philanthropist Nancy Blackburn Hamon whenever she was asked of the legacy she wished to leave:
“I’d rather spend it all when I’m alive and leave the world a little better than I found it.”
After gifting millions of the fortune she shared with her late husband, legendary Texas oil and gas operator Jake L. Hamon, to make our world a better place, Mrs. Hamon died last July at 92. Among her favorite charities was California Pacific Medical Center, to which she left a bequest of $5 million for neuroscience.
“I have heard many stories about the larger-than-life Nancy Hamon – certainly this bequest falls into that category,” says Mark Kimbell, president of CPMC Foundation. “Her immense generosity will benefit hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals with devastating neurological conditions such as stroke or Alzheimer’s. Hers will be a permanent legacy here at CPMC.”
Thoughtful service and natural joie de vivre shaped Mrs. Hamon’s long life. From her early days touring in the Army’s acting troupe with Carl Reiner, to the beneficiaries of her gifts to the arts, education and medicine in the two cities she adored—Dallas and San Francisco.
“Nancy didn’t like the summer heat in Dallas, so she and Jake become annual San Francisco summer renters, and then owners of a beautiful Russian Hill apartment,” recalls friend Betty Peters, a member of CPMC Foundation’s Board of Trustees. “Over those decades she received wonderful medical care at CPMC and it was typical of her generous nature to fund the hospital’s needs. Before her annual summer visits her friends used to compare notes on how they were resting up. We all miss our fun-loving Nancy.”
A friend’s life – and later her own – was saved by physicians at CPMC. This is what inspired her series of gifts to the Medical Center totaling more than $10 million. In 1999, after a visit to a temporary MRI unit that had been set up in a mobile trailer on the California campus, Mrs. Hamon awarded CPMC a $2.2 million challenge grant to build a $4.8 million state-of-the-art facility, later gifting an additional $1 million toward meeting her own grant, and the Nancy B. Hamon MRI Suite was born.
The riches of Mrs. Hamon’s life did not preclude its sadness. In a few years’ time, she lost her only son at a young age, her husband to natural death, and her stepdaughter to lung cancer. But she continued living.
“Well, what are your choices?” she told The Dallas Morning News in 2004. “You can become a recluse, or you can become the village drunk — or you can try to carry on and contribute.”
While attending a friend’s funeral in San Francisco several years ago, Mrs. Hamon suffered a stroke and was rushed to CPMC.
“The care Nancy received at CPMC saved her life and was critical to her recovery,” recalls Jerry Mapp, former president of CPMC Foundation and a close friend of Mrs. Hamon, as they shared Texas roots. “She couldn’t dance like she used to, but her wit was intact and she was able to live out a full life.”
CPMC: The Best Community Investment
“When doctors save your life, you’re grateful for the rest of your life,” says Harolyn Thompson, who first spent time at California Pacific Medical Center after a life-threatening auto accident. “During the two months I was immobilized, I closely observed the skill and dedication of the hospital staff. And they kept my husband Bob informed and let him stay with me.”
In 2006, the couple decided to join CPMC Foundation’s Legacy Society by including the Medical Center in their trust with an unrestricted charitable gift annuity. Their commitment was inspired by their experience at CPMC and their ongoing relationship with Martin Brotman, M.D., Harolyn’s primary care physician after her accident and now president of the Sutter Health West Bay Region.
“For a long time I thought there’s not too much you can do to show your appreciation except to send a thank you note to your doctor,” Harolyn says. “Then I learned that a planned gift is a very tangible way to say thanks. We have no children, so we needed to decide where our money would go, and it seemed like a very good idea to include CPMC, especially in tribute to Dr. Brotman.”
“We’re people of average means, but we thought that the community is the best investment,” Bob adds. “I think that having cutting-edge medicine in the area is a good idea when you might be the next patient.”