Windmuller Legacy Benefits Kendal at Ithaca

Betsey Roberts tells the story with satisfaction in her voice — even though the interview is at 7 a.m.! Her parents thrived at Kendal; they discovered that they had more resources than they would need, and the discovery enabled them to become philanthropists in their later years. Betsey said she and her brother Tom were surprised — and pleased — to discover a listing of small but regular charitable gifts her mother had quietly made to more than one hundred organizations!

Ruth H. and John P. Windmuller were founding residents at Kendal. Health concerns made the new community up on the hill a welcome option, and life at Kendal proved just the right choice for them. They had lived in Ithaca nearly 50 years, and had many friends there. John had built the kind of professional reputation that later would earn him the honor of the John P. Windmuller Chair in International and Comparative Labor, established in Nov. 2008. Ruth raised two children, managed their home, and took the lead in community life.

Ruth and John knew each other as teenagers; both were Holocaust survivors aboard the famous SS St. Louis that sailed from Hamburg, Germany on May 13, 1939 but was turned away from port in Havana and Miami, so it returned to Europe and both children went to a children’s home in France where they met. Sailing on different decks of the same ship, they did not know each other until they both landed at the French home!

Decades later Ruth observed Kendal’s full range of care as John’s health required first assisted living and then skilled care. Gratitude for the quality of his personal care and the relationships that went along with it motivated Ruth. She endowed the Windmuller Classical Concert Fund in John’s memory. Through her estate, Ruth made a generous bequest to the Rainy Day Fund.

And her children are following suit. Betsey and Tom gave Ruth’s car to the community, and have planted trees in memory of their parents. Betsey observed that her mother wanted other people to have the same Kendal experience as she and John did; planting trees is a statement about someone else sitting under trees they did not plant, just as they inherited in our time the shade of someone else’s labor.

What passion did Ruth exhibit in her later years? Betsey answers without hesitation — Ruth was a staunch advocate for Kendal’s residents and employees — and their rights. She knew firsthand that the staff are key to the experience of residents. And how in keeping with John’s career in labor relations!

Now one of several second generation philanthropists to Kendal, Betsey looks forward to a future when she will leave Southern California for Ithaca, to take up residence at Kendal. There are friends waiting for her at Kendal, among both staff and residents. Friendships just happen when you start spending time at Kendal, she says.