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Estate Donation: Couple’s Final Gesture of Compassion, Generosity

Over the decades they had gathered around it to eat thousands of meals, blow out hundreds of birthday candles, hold dozens of memorable family discussions and share countless laughs. But on this March day Bob DeLacey, his sister Mary Tamburin and his wife Debbie sat down at the old wooden table to remember Bob and Mary’s parents, James “Gibson” and Mae “Evelyn” DeLacey. They were also saying goodbye to the many items that filled their parents’ Mt. Juliet home — even the table.

“We tell the story often that the people who sold this table to my mother many years ago wanted to ‘distress’ it for her,” Bob DeLacey said, smiling and rubbing his fingers across the scarred tabletop. “But she told them she had five kids and would take care of the ‘distressing’ herself. And she did — or we did, I guess.” As he spoke, employees from Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee bustled around the house, carefully wrapping dishes from the kitchen cabinets in paper and hauling furniture and box after box of books from the bedrooms to a truck waiting outside.

The donation of the contents of the DeLacey estate to Goodwill was something Gib DeLacey, who was 94 when he died in 2013, and Evelyn DeLacey, who died a year later at 95, had always intended. And with probate of the will completed, their wishes were being honored via Goodwill’s Estate Pick-up Program.

“It’s not an easy thing,” Bob DeLacey said, pointing to all the activity. “You miss them terribly, and you’re in the house, seeing it be cleaned out. But it has brought us a lot of comfort, too, knowing that all their belongings are going somewhere they are needed — somewhere that will help people.”

Goodwill’s mission of providing job training and employment opportunities through the sale of donated goods was ingrained in the DeLacey household. Gib DeLacey served on Goodwill’s Board of Directors from the 1970s through the 1990s, including several years as its chairman.

Retired Goodwill President and CEO David B. Lifsey called Gib DeLacey “a great and instrumental friend to Goodwill and to me.” He credits the late banking and department store chain executive with improving the quality of Goodwill’s store environments as well as its systems for tracking retail costs and sales.

Moreover, Lifesy said, Gib DeLacey taught him how to be a better leader.  “His motivation came from a deep love for Goodwill’s mission,” Lifsey said. “He grew up on a farm and knew the value and necessity of hard work as well as the role earning your way plays in self-esteem. We never had a conversation that did not end with questions about how well we were performing our mission, and he constantly held in front of us the core belief that our only reason to exist is to make lives better for the people we were privileged to serve.”

Mary Tamburin said her mother and father were devout Christians whose first concern was helping others, but they also understood the power of teaching those in need to help themselves. Goodwill was one of just a few organizations they trusted to fulfill this obligation, and they were its fervent supporters.

“I used to be a frequent participant in neighborhood yard sales,” she recalled, “and my husband was in the toy business. He’d bring home toy samples that we would sell, and my dad would ask, ‘Why are you doing that when you can just give it to Goodwill where it would do a lot of good?’” Gib and Evelyn DeLacey never stopped trying to win people over to Goodwill’s cause — even during the sunset of their lives.  Jackie Pate was Gib DeLacey’s in-home caregiver after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. When he died, she cared for Evelyn DeLacey. Over the two years she spent with them, she grew to love them like her own parents.

“And they just loved Goodwill,” Pate recalls. “You could just mention Goodwill and (Gib Delacey’s) eyes would light up. It was really wild.” After the couple died, Pate decided to pursue a different line of work. She took a job as a donation attendant for Goodwill in Smyrna.

“It was planted in my mind that I was going to come this way toward Goodwill because of what they said and how much he enjoyed his time with Goodwill,” she explained.

As the day of the DeLacey estate pickup drew to a close, almost all the contents of the house had been carefully packed and loaded onto the Goodwill truck. Along the way, Goodwill’s packers found a small box of Evelyn DeLacey’s handwritten recipes and showed it to her children. Tucked inside was a rare family treasure — a note from their grandmother to their mother that read, “Hope you have a happy, healthful 1959. Dad surprised me with a new Bible. The one you gave me in 43 is looking bad.”

They kept the recipe box, of course. But most everything else from the house was loaded onto the Goodwill truck. Only the old table and a few other items awaited the truck’s return trip the next day to complete the pickup.

That night, Mary Tamburin couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t stop thinking about the old kitchen table — how its scuffs and scratches uniquely recorded the story of her parents and the loving family they had raised through their example of patience, kindness and wisdom.

At midnight, she called her brother to ask whether there wasn’t some way they could keep the table. But Bob assured her that, even though it was still in their parent’s home, the table belonged to Goodwill.

The next day they “purchased” the old table from Goodwill for $300 — a price they insisted upon. It was one more tribute to their parents’ legacy of helping others.

Read this summers edition of The Ambassador – Goodwill’s quarterly magazine which provides readers with stories of events, activities and the inspiring changes Goodwill is making in the lives of others.

About Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee, Inc.

For more than 55 years Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee has provided job training and job placement free of charge to people with disabilities or other barriers to employment through the sale of donated items. In 2014, Goodwill served 28,159 people in Middle and West Tennessee and placed 9.558 people in jobs. More information about Goodwill’s Career Solutions, retail stores and donation centers can be obtained online at  www.giveit2goodwill.org or by calling 1-800-545-9231

Learn more about Goodwill’s Estate Donation Pickup Service or schedule a pickup  

1 Comment
  • Rebeka Reesor
    Posted at 11:46h, 29 July Reply

    The DeLacey and Tamburin families are truly the most thoughtful and wonderful I’ve been blessed to work with and be a part of. This article is exactly who this family is and how they live their lives.

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