Pittsburgh Foundation given $20 million

Gifts from estates of twin sisters, ex-Heinz executive

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The estates of identical twin sisters Jean and Nancy Davis -- lifelong Pittsburghers who died within four months of each other at the age of 97 -- and a former H.J. Heinz Co. executive and his wife have made two of the largest individual gifts ever received by The Pittsburgh Foundation.

The donations, announced by the foundation this week, include roughly $9 million from the Davises and $11.7 million from the late Junius Allen and his wife, Zella, who died last year at 103. The bulk of the money is designated for the unrestricted use of the foundation, a nonprofit community foundation launched in 1945 with assets of more than $800 million. The foundation awards grants to charitable groups in Pittsburgh and throughout the U.S.

The Pittsburgh Foundation's largest individual donation, $50 million, came in 2010 from the late Pittsburgh chemical engineer Charles Kaufman.

"When we look behind these bequests, we see touching stories of deep affection for Pittsburgh and its people," foundation CEO Grant Oliphant said. "This is a great example of something that happens more frequently than we realize in Pittsburgh, where people who are born here leave an extraordinary gift to Pittsburgh."

Jean Davis, who died last October, and her sister Nancy, who died in February, lived their entire lives in a red brick house built by their father on South Braddock Avenue in Pittsburgh's East End. The 1910, six-bedroom, 2 1/2-story home on the edge of Frick Park sold last month for $350,000, according to Allegheny County real estate records.

The twins' money was largely inherited from their mother, Blanche, and father, Frank, who held the distribution franchise for the laundry whitening detergent La France, which Mr. Davis later sold and invested in other businesses.

The sisters' wealth accumulated over time with the aide of their modest lifestyles. Neither woman ever married.

In their younger years, "They bought clothes at great places, but also were wearing their mother's clothes," said Bonnie Titus, close friend, neighbor and executor of their estates.

"They liked to see their money grow. And they wouldn't tell each other how much money they had," Ms. Titus said.

Both sisters attended Pittsburgh's Winchester Thurston School. Jean graduated from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and also earned a degree in music from the University of Michigan. Nancy started at Mount Holyoke and graduated from the Pennsylvania College for Women, now Chatham College.

Jean served with the USO in Germany and Nancy with the WAVES in the U.S. Navy. Jean headed the music department in the Tarentum schools for a short time, while Nancy worked as a secretary at Westinghouse's Bettis facility for several years, Ms. Titus said. Both quit working before age 40, she said.

In addition to the foundation's $9 million donation, the twins established a fund for the benefit of Second United Presbyterian Church in Wilkinsburg where they worshiped, and made individual bequests to their nieces and nephews.

The Allens, Coraopolis natives whose ties to Pittsburgh remained strong even after they left the region for Florida in 1973, had established a fund at the foundation in 1988 to support discretionary grantmaking. That fund has grown to $500,000.

Mr. Allen, who retired from Heinz as senior vice president in charge of European operations, died in 2004 at age 96.


Patricia Sabatini: psabatini@post-gazette.com.


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