Even after her death, Westbrook’s Ellie Conant Saunders is still giving back to the city.

A trust first established by Saunders in 1966 will give the city more than $100,000, split among multiple city departments.

While the final figures have not yet been confirmed, the Walker Memorial Library, Westbrook Police Department and Westbrook Fire Department each will receive at least $22,000, with Westbrook Public Services receiving at least $44,000.

Saunders died in 2014 at age 94, at the same Conant Street home in which she was born.

Saunders was the wife of the late Westbrook mayor, Donald Saunders, and her ancestors were known to be among the first permanent settlers in Westbrook. Brothers Joseph and Samuel Conant are credited with operating Westbrook’s first saw and grist mills.

Beyond that, she was heavily involved in the community, and was a founder and one-time director of the Westbrook Historical Society. She also maintained a large private collection of historical items at her home. Due to her ancestry and involvement in the community, many considered her to be a central figure of Westbrook’s identity.

She was honored as the grand marshal of the Westbrook Together Days Parade in 2007.

Saunders’ nephew, Bob Corrigan, was the executor of her estate, and is named as co-trustee of the Saunders Trust. Corrigan’s wife, Jackie, said Wednesday that the bequests to the city were not a surprise to the family, given Saunders’ involvement in the community.

“She had always lived in Westbrook, and it was near and dear to her heart,” she said. “She was adament about leaving the trust to many local charities.”

Also included in the trust is the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center – which received the largest bequest, $220,000 – and Camp Sunshine, the Ronald McDonald House, Beals House, the Bridgton Naramissic/Bridgton Historical Society, and the Maine National Guard Foundation, which are all slated to receive $22,000.

Corrigan said Saunders suffered her whole life from various allergies, and it was not until she began visiting the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., that she worked through them.

“She thought they got her life under control,” she said.

In Westbrook, she said, Saunders always appreciated the city’s police and fire departments, where she was well known for dropping off her homemade lemon cakes. Corrigan said the Saunders family would host annual events for the departments at their camp in Raymond.

“The city was a big deal to both her and Donald,” she said.

The final figures have not yet been announced because the trust still needs to clear the probate process. Some funds have been held back as a retainer for legal fees and taxes, but the final numbers could grow by a few thousand dollars.

Colleen Hilton, Westbrook’s mayor, said this week that Saunders’ gift showcases the love she had for Westbrook.

“I am always grateful when Westbrook residents decide to leave an estate gift to their community. To me it really speaks to the love that someone has for Westbrook and it is important for us as city leaders to honor those gifts and wishes and to ensure that their requests are followed,” she said. “I guess you could say it truly is as the saying goes, ‘pennies from heaven.’”

Hilton said Saunders’ gift of historical documents to the Westbrook Historical Society is “equally as important.” Saunders gave the organization dozens of scrapbooks that were meticulously arranged and organized, which now have their own section at the historical society.

Westbrook Public Services is receiving double the amount of other departments due to two projects that Saunders was closely invested in – the Whitney Rose Garden and the Conant Burial Ground, her family’s private cemetery on the Conant Street property.

According to Arty Ledoux, the director of operations at Westbrook Public Services, the funds are meant to allow for the perpetual care of the cemetery and the rose garden that are on the property.

Ledoux said he didn’t know about the trust, and was “equally surprised and pleased” by the announcement.

“I always appreciated my conversations with Ellie, and I’m so grateful that her love of Westbrook will be continuing in the legacy that she has left behind,” he said. “She really cared about those two places. When someone sets those standards, it’s nice to see them supported even after they pass on.”

Ledoux had worked closely with Saunders to establish city maintenance of both the cemetery and rose garden, and said he always enjoyed his visits to her historic home.

“We will continue to care for and maintain both locations to the standards which Ellie had come to appreciate,” he said. “We want to maintain it to a level that Ellie would have been proud of.”

Ellie Conant Saunders, who died in 2014 at age 94, left more than $100,000 to various city of Westbrook departments, including some $44,000 to Westbrook Public Services. 


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