Losing a loved one can be incredibly difficult—especially if it’s your twin sibling. Mary Anne and her sister Virginia, like many twins, had been inseparable growing up. Although they went their separate ways for college, and ultimately settled on different coasts, they remained close throughout their lives.
The twins visited each other often and frequently vacationed together. They’d enjoyed a month-long trip to Africa together in late 2019, just a few months before Mary Anne received the devastating news that Virginia had suffered a fatal heart attack.
Mary Anne had lost her husband years before, so Virginia was the only family she had left. Mary Anne did take some comfort in that she was able to have a proper funeral for her sister just before the world ground to a halt due to the pandemic in the spring of 2020.
A big move and a big idea
The day of the funeral, Mary Anne decided to move back east to take over her sister’s historic home in Hingham, Massachusetts—and to fulfill one of her sister’s dreams by creating a distinguished speaker series as well. “Virginia had always talked about setting up a speaker series, but nothing had ever come of it," says Mary Anne.
“I thought, ‘You know, this is the time to do this,’ since I’d sold my house in California,” but she also decided, “Uncle Sam didn’t need to share the proceeds from the sale.” By opening a donor-advised fund account with Schwab Charitable, Mary Anne was able to achieve her desire to do something for the town of Hingham and for Virginia’s friends.
Mary Anne wanted the opening event to be educational without being too political, so she said Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham was her first choice to lead off the series. “I’d first heard him speak at Barbara Bush’s funeral, and I thought he was humble, incisive, smart, humorous.”
Despite being told she might be aiming too high, Mary Anne figured she wouldn’t know unless she tried—and after reaching Meacham’s agent and pleading her case, the Virginia Tay Memorial Lecture had its inaugural speaker.
Listen to Mary Anne's story
In this special podcast episode, we hear directly from Mary Anne as she shares her story of her twin sister Virginia.
Big crowd, bigger success
The event, open to the public in conjunction with the Hingham Historical Commission, was a big success, with more than 350 people in attendance. Mary Anne was able to recommend a grant from her Schwab Charitable donor-advised fund and make a qualified charitable distribution to the Town of Hingham charity to pay for the event in her sister’s honor. After the main event, Mary Anne personally hosted a smaller separate event at her home where Mr. Meacham mingled and signed books for interested guests.
Mary Anne was touched by how many guests told her how much her sister would have loved the event. “Every single thing I did, I bounced by in my head, ‘What would Virginia say?’ She would be thrilled, absolutely thrilled.”
It wasn’t easy moving forward from her initial shock and grief after losing her sister, but through those early struggles, Mary Anne said,
I looked to what Virginia instilled in me, what my parents and husband instilled in me, and thought, ‘You can do this, Mary Anne. You can move on.’
- Mary Anne, Schwab Charitable Client
To give when you have lost
While losing loved ones is never easy, if you want to honor someone through a legacy, charitable giving is a way to do so. Mary Anne wanted to create a speaker series in her sister’s memory and help the town she loved—and through her donor-advised fund, she was able to do so in a way that was tax-smart and sustainable.
Ultimately, says Mary Anne, “You cannot let adversity run your life. As hard as it may be to move forward, you have to remember that your lost loved one would want you to.” And there are many ways to live for them after loss—Mary Anne certainly found hers.