10-22-2020 Vanderlyn’s legacy celebrated with new charitable endowment; Watervliet Township to take

DEDICATION ON SUNDAY… Scott Smith cuts the ribbon for the new Arthur and Bonna Vanderlyn Com-munity Center and Hartford Public Library. Taking part in the cutting (from the left) are: Sarah Zepik, Ste-phanie Daniels, Patty Schroeder, State Representative Beth Griffin, Mayor Rick Hall, Scott Smith, State Senator Aric Nesbitt, James Jonatzke, Ellen Friday, and Faith Dowd. (Photo courtesy of Hartford Public Schools)

Vanderlyn’s legacy celebrated with new charitable endowment

By Anna Layer

For decades, one of the friendliest faces you could see in the community of Hartford was that of Mrs. Bonna Vanderlyn. Widely known in the community as the owner of Harding’s Friendly Market, Mrs. Vanderlyn lived up to that name and welcomed customers to her store with a smile. In 2000, Mrs. Vanderlyn was named Hartford’s Citizen of the Year for her quiet contributions. Now, twenty years later, she is still posthumously contributing to the community of Hartford.

Scott Smith, Mrs. Vanderlyn’s nephew, remembered Bonna at a traditional memorial service on Sunday, Oct. 18, and the newly opened Arthur and Bonna Vanderlyn Community Center and Hartford Public Library. “Bonna was notorious for charitable giving, and she’s done things that none of us even know about. She did it because she could. She would ask me, ‘Do you think I’ve done enough?’ She gave nearly her entire estate away. The library is amazing legacy for the community from this couple. But she wanted to do more.”

After the memorial service, there was a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Hartford Public Library, which was made possible through a $1.3 million donation from the Arthur and Bonna Vanderlyn estate. The festivities included some major announcements regarding how the Vanderlyn’s estate would be put to work. While there was already an existing scholarship fund for students of Hartford Public schools, it had initially been funded at $300,000 but $2 million has now been added to this fund, with a goal in mind of being able to award scholarships to as many students as possible each year.

Still, Mrs. Vanderlyn wanted to contribute on a wider scale. Currently, much of her remaining estate is being utilized to create the Arthur and Bonna Vanderlyn Charitable Endowment Fund. This fund, estimated at around $5 million, has several organizations it aims to benefit, including: The American Heart Association, Lesea Family Broadcasting, Stroke Research and Treatment, the Hartford Fire Department, Hartford United Methodist Church, Hartford Lions Club Food Basket Program, Animal Protection Organizations, Disabled American Veterans, and the American Cancer Society, which was especially important to Bonna, having lost Arthur to cancer. Creation of this endowment is an ongoing process, but will clearly benefit the community of Hartford and beyond for a long time. According to Scott Smith, the intention is for this endowment to yield a $300,000 annual return forever.

All things considered, Mrs. Vanderlyn gave away the vast majority of her estate, having set aside in excess of $9 million to do the good things she wanted to see in the world. “Everything she did was to help all of us,” Scott Smith explained. To people who knew Bonna well, this announcement was no big surprise. Tim Hildebrand, Manager of Harding’s Friendly Market, explained, “She just wanted to continue to make sure the giving happened. She didn’t like the publicity, but she loved the town and the town was good to her and she wanted to give back to them.”

For those of us that knew Bonna, the impact she’s had on our lives goes beyond monetary. This reporter was employed at Harding’s Friendly Market in Hartford as a teenager and college student, and saw a store owner who routinely bought her employees dinner, inquired about their grades, and celebrated their successes. How can one forget being asked via store intercom to report to the break room, where the store owner asked you to sit and eat with her?

Bonna showed those around her how to give in ways beyond the pocketbook. Bonna showed people how to give love. Perhaps no one explains Bonna’s legacy better than her longtime friend and employee, Erin Goodson, who said, “It was a very fitting memorial, and the only one missing at the library was her. She wanted to be there for that, and I truly believe that she was, and had the best seat in the house. The library is a beautiful addition to Hartford. It’s a monument to a couple that loved this town. She was a blessing. She brought a beautiful light to this world, and we’re going to keep seeing that for a long time even though we’re going to feel the loss. Imagine the world we would live in if everyone loved their community this way and gave back this way.”