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Bequest bolsters local foundation

Tom Jackson • Jan 15, 2014 at 12:50 PM

When Back to the Wild releases a bird at your memorial service, it’s a sign you were considered a friend to wildlife.

The late Roberta Hankamer also liked veterans. She belonged to the Daughters of the American Revolution for close to half a century, and she also volunteered at the Ohio Veterans Home.

Hankamer, a Sandusky native, must have liked the Erie County Community Foundation, too.

She gave the foundation a bequest of almost $700,000 when she died last year.

It’s the biggest bequest the foundation has received since it was founded in 1996, said Anna Oertel, the group’s executive director.

“She was obviously a very generous woman,” Oertel said.    Roberta Ann Hankamer, 75, was born Sept. 7, 1939, in Sandusky. She obtained degrees from three different universities, worked from 1965-71 as dean of students at a junior college in Boston, then worked from 1971-89 as head librarian at the Grand Lodge of Masons Massachusetts, A.F.&A.M. Library.

Hankamer, who never married, returned to Sandusky when she retired.

“At that time, her mother and father were still living,” said her cousin John Piper, who is retired as the golf coach at Bowling Green State University.

She enjoyed birdwatching and spent quite a bit of time at Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve and Old Woman Creek State Nature Preserve.

“She would often sit in the backyard and look at birds,” Piper said. “When she went to Huron, she was always keeping an eye out for different birds”

When she returned to Sandusky, Hankamer became a volunteer at Old Woman Creek, where she became friends with another wildlife lover, Mona Rutger. When Rutger founded Back to the Wild, a Castalia charity that heals wounded animals and returns them to their native habitat, Hankamer became a loyal supporter.

“Every year, Roberta would adopt one of our bald eagles and cover its care for a year,” Rutger said.

“She was a personal friend of mine. I made her cheesecake every Christmas and took it to her” Rutger said.

Hankamer was a 48-year member of the Martha Pitkin Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, serving from 2000 to 2002 as the chapter’s regent, or top officer.

She was “very patriotic” said the current regent, Carol Mack.

“She rarely missed meetings until the last year,” Mack said. “She was very interested in volunteering at Old Woman’s Creek and also the Cooke House. Like all DAR members she was very much involved with the veterans home”

Hankamer’s DAR chapter also supported Back to the Wild, Rutger said.

“I released a bluebird at her memorial service. We thought that would be meaningful to her, returning it to the wild right there at Oakland Cemetery” Rutger said.

The Erie County Community Foundation formed in 1996, with an initial fund of $1.8 million. The Dorn Foundation pledged $1 million on condition that other contributions would add at least $750,000, Oertel said.

The foundation’s net assets have grown steadily. Net assets stood at about $14.6 million in November, said Randall Wagner, the foundation’s finance director.

Thanks to bequests and a good performance by the stock market, the foundation had a good year in 2013, he said.

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