For the Love of Children
Tom and Kathleen Elam grew up during the Great Depression, and like most of their generation, it made a profound influence on them for the rest of their lives.
Married for more than 50 years, the Elams, of Union City, Tennessee, believed that education and good health care were key to influencing a positive outcome for all children and they spent the majority of their lives giving to causes and organizations in which they believed, among them the University of Tennessee and Le Bonheur Children's.
Tom died in 1998, one month shy of his 89th birthday, and Kathleen, 94, died just last year. Yet more than 15 years ago, the couple prepared their wills and established a significant bequest, making provisions for Le Bonheur as part of their commitment to the future well-being of all children. The Elams considered Le Bonheur to be among the best children's hospitals in the country and their planned gift reflected their belief in the importance of quality pediatric health care.
"Years ago Kathleen became aware of an ill child who had been denied treatment at an area hospital because of the family's inability to pay for care," recalls the Elams' niece Betty Smith. "When Kathleen learned that Le Bonheur had opened its doors to take care of this child when other hospitals wouldn't, she became a Le Bonheur donor."
Known throughout West Tennessee as Colonel Tom in recognition of his military rank in the United States Army in which he served during World War II, Elam attended the University of Tennessee and went on to law school at UT. He was admitted to the Tennessee Bar in 1934 and practiced in Union City for more than 60 years. He often referred to himself as a "country lawyer." He served on the UT Athletic Board for 43 years.
Kathleen Elam was an avid gardener, a member of the City Beautiful Commission in Union City and active in her church. She was also a major contributor to help build the Obion County Public Library. Kathleen and Tom met and married during the war and never had children of their own.
"Col. Tom was very much concerned about his fellow man," recalls Jack Parker, a longtime family friend and executor of both Tom's and Kathleen's estates. "Both of them were active in the community. Tom realized a lot of less fortunate young people would not get a college education without scholarships, so he established scholarships at UT and through the Rotary Club in Union City."
Smith adds: "They were very humble people who understood the importance of making a contribution and how their gifts influenced others to give."
In addition to their significant planned gift which will help future generations of children, Kathleen Elam also made generous annual gifts to Le Bonheur during her lifetime. She loved children and loved knowing that her gifts were making a difference in so many lives.