Spokane Mayor David Condon inherited $1 million earlier this year from noted Spokane philanthropist Myrtle Woldson, who died in April at age 104.
Condon, who was called a “personal friend” in Woldson’s obituary, lives just down the street from her West Sumner Avenue home, the same street where he grew up. He is one of eight people who received gifts in Woldson’s will.
“I met Myrtle when I was born. She was another grandmother to me,” Condon said. “I was with her the night she died. I was holding her hand when she took her last breath.”
Woldson never married and had no children. In her will, she specifically mentions her two nephews, Martin and Kenneth Howser, to “eliminate any doubt” about her leaving them nothing. She added that it was “done so intentionally and not as an oversight.”
Martin Howser, Condon’s next-door neighbor who finances conservative causes and candidates, filed for bankruptcy in 2009 but still owns adjoining Sumner property with an estimated worth exceeding $500,000.
Condon’s million-dollar windfall comes on the heels of discussions of his salary as mayor. His 2015 budget proposal included a $7,000 pay increase that would have brought his pay to nearly $180,000 a year, making him one of best-paid mayors in the Pacific Northwest. At first, Condon argued that the raise was simply a function of city law and voter will, and driven in part by union-mandated pay raises.
After public outrage and charges from the City Council that the raise was “utterly ridiculous,” Condon said he would forgo the pay increase.
Before her death, Woldson donated $1,800 to Condon’s 2015 re-election effort. In 2011, she donated $1,600 to his first mayoral campaign. She donated $1,000 to U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ 2010 campaign and $200 to Seattle City Council candidate Jan Drago in 2005. Other than those, Woldson stayed away from political donations.
Condon’s bequest was second only to that of Mark Damon Danner, a “dear friend” of Woldson’s who lives in Hayden Lake; he received $4 million. Woldson also left $1 million to Catholic Charities “exclusively for capital improvements and replacements at the House of Charity.” She also left money to two gardeners, two of her cousins and her goddaughter.
When she was alive, Woldson gave away large sums of her fortune to help preserve parts of Spokane’s history. She gave $3 million to help restore the Fox Theater in downtown Spokane. It was renamed the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox in honor of her father, who was born in Norway but came to Spokane in 1893. The Moore-Turner Heritage Gardens were preserved and restored in large part due to Woldson’s $1.2 million donation.
In 2010, the city’s park board renamed Pioneer Park after Woldson’s mother, Edwidge Woldson.
Aside from the specific gifts in her will, Woldson promised the rest of her fortune to Gonzaga University, enough money to design, build and completely furnish a new performing arts center on campus, which will be named after her. The building will include a 750-seat theater, as well as multiple areas for music, theater arts and dance instruction.
“She was very generous to Spokane throughout the years,” said Condon, adding that he was “very fortunate and appreciative” of her gift.
“I still have and treasure the hundreds of letters she sent me over the years. She sent me a box of chocolates every year for my birthday. Always exactly on my birthday.”
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