Local benefactor lived modestly

Relatively few people knew Marga Ebel during the years she lived in the community, but her estate gift of $350,000 to the Hillsboro Com?munity Founda?tion will do a lot of good for local children in the years to come.

Delores Dalke, mayor of Hills?boro and Ebel?s friend and power of attorney in her later years, said her story is a classic example of surprising charitable impact: An elderly person with a spartan lifestyle and low profile who leaves behind a sizeable financial gift to benefit a good cause.

?A lot of people didn?t even know her,? Dalke said of Ebel. ?I had no idea, when her life was all over, that she would make such a splash here in the community.?

Ebel?s posthumous impact would have been hard to predict. She was born in Nebraska as the only child of Otto and Lydia Ebel, immigrants from Ger?many. The family eventually returned to the homeland, where the father ran a candy factory.

?Marga had a great childhood in Germany, going to school and in later years she loved to tell about the parties and other events she attended,? Dalke said.

But when World War II erupted, their lives were disrupted. With the Russian Army advancing on their city, Marga and her parents left everything behind and fled to an island in the North Sea. All that they owned was either bombed or burned by the time the war ended.

After a two-year stint as refugees, the Ebels came to Hillsboro with the financial assistance of the Schaeffler family, relatives who ran the successful Schaeffler Mercantile on Main Street.

While her parents found work in the community, Marga attended Tabor College, where she earned a teaching degree. She then taught school in Rose Hill and in various schools in Wichita.

Ebel completed her teaching career with a satisfying stint at the Institute of Logo?pedics in Wichita (now operating as Heartspring).

When her parents developed health issues, Ebel returned to Hillsboro to care for them.

Dalke said she got know to Ebel about 30 years ago and they became friends. Dalke said she didn?t become aware of Ebel?s financial assets until later.

?It wasn?t that she ever made a huge salary, she just took care of what she had,? Dalke said. ?She wasn?t a hermit?she went out to eat with her friends.?

But Ebel was frugal and conscientious.

?She was so very, very careful with everything she got her hands on,? Dalke said.

?The only car she had, that I know of, was some kind of ?60s model Chevrolet. After she didn?t drive anymore, she sold it to a lady who was one of the caregivers who came in to look after her.

?I know she sold it for $500,? Dalke said. ?Then there was something wrong with it because it hadn?t been driven for so long. So she gave the lady back $100 because she thought she had taken advantage of her.

?That?s just the kind of person she was.?

In Ebel?s later years, Dalke asked her where she wanted her assets to go after she passed away. Ebel?s original desire, Dalke said, was to have them distributed among her friends.

But when she outlived them all, Ebel and Dalke talked about other options. With Dalke?s help, they developed a trust for her, which covered her expenses during her final five years at Salem Home in Hillsboro.

It was there that she expressed a desire to help child?ren with the remainder of her estate.

?She said make sure they have good health care,? Dalke said. ?Her last teaching position was at the school of logo?pedics, so she understood very well about kids with needs, and not having all the resources to take care of them.?

The estate gift, the precise amount of which is still being finalized, has been set up as an endowed fund through HCF. It will be enhanced with up to $150,000 more, thanks to the $300,000 matching grant from the Kansas Health Foundation.

?What will be spent is the income off the endowment, not the endowment itself,? Dalke said. ?So it will be there forever.?

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