BELLINGHAM - Phyllis Markiewicz turned to her daughters after last visiting the Whatcom Museum in the summer of 2009 and said, "For such a small town, you have a really nice museum."
The late Lansing, Mich., resident is helping to keep it that way with her $240,000 bequest.
"We were really blown away when we saw how substantial the legacy gift was to the museum," said her daughter, Bellingham resident April Markiewicz. "It turned out she left half her estate to them."
Whatcom Museum will honor the 84-year-old Phyllis Markiewicz, who died Dec. 9, 2011, of a heart attack, by naming the main gallery in the museum's Lightcatcher Building after her.
A private dedication ceremony is set for Friday, March 15, at the Lightcatcher. It will be named the Markiewicz Gallery.
"Oh my gosh, it was just amazing. Who would have known?" Patricia Leach, the museum's executive director, said of the donation.
Leach said the gift was among the largest the museum has received since her tenure began October 2007.
The bequest went into the museum's endowment fund, from which accrued interest supports museum operations, such as exhibits and programs.
"She was just always impressed with the quality of the exhibits here, which is a nice compliment," Leach said.
Phyllis traveled to this part of the world every two years to visit her daughters - Cherie, who lives in Vancouver, B.C., and April, who teaches environmental toxicology at Western Washington University. The family members would go to exhibits at the museum's 1892 Old City Hall Building on Prospect Street during her visits.
"She thought it had a lot of character," April said.
That building served as the main museum prior to the Lightcatcher's opening in November 2009.
"She just really liked going there," April said of her mother, a world traveler and art lover.
The Lightcatcher hadn't yet opened when Phyllis Markiewicz last visited, in July-August 2009.
The last time she visited the Old City Hall, Phyllis Markiewicz asked her daughters how they would feel if she left money in her will for the museum. It was an idea they supported.
"It was nice to spread good feeling in hard economic times," April said.
Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or firstname.lastname@example.org.