Mystery of the generous lady finally solved

February 15, 2012

 
Mystery of the generous lady finally solved Cape Breton Post Published on July 20, 2007
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Charitable donation likely saved Halifax environmental group

ST. JOHNS, NL The questions began with the arrival of a lawyers letter regarding the estate of the late Elizabeth Katherine Dobbin. 

Betty Dobbin who passed away in St. Johns in November 2000 was leaving $72,309 to an environmental group in Halifax. The thing is, the group had never heard of her.

The letter arrived out of the blue. We do not know why she chose the Ecology Action Centre. Its a mystery to us, said board member Alan Rufman.

The money couldnt have come at a better time. The Ecology Action Centre began in 1971 and had called 10 different addresses in Halifax home. The centre needed a place to call its own, but couldnt afford one. The board decided to use the Dobbin windfall as the foundation for a campaign to buy a property. The group eventually raised a quarter of a million dollars and just recently purchased a house in Halifaxs north end.

By Peter Walsh

Transcontinental Media

ST. JOHNS, NL The questions began with the arrival of a lawyers letter regarding the estate of the late Elizabeth Katherine Dobbin. 

Betty Dobbin who passed away in St. Johns in November 2000 was leaving $72,309 to an environmental group in Halifax. The thing is, the group had never heard of her.

The letter arrived out of the blue. We do not know why she chose the Ecology Action Centre. Its a mystery to us, said board member Alan Rufman.

The money couldnt have come at a better time. The Ecology Action Centre began in 1971 and had called 10 different addresses in Halifax home. The centre needed a place to call its own, but couldnt afford one. The board decided to use the Dobbin windfall as the foundation for a campaign to buy a property. The group eventually raised a quarter of a million dollars and just recently purchased a house in Halifaxs north end. 

Its been remarkable how this money has made a difference for us. There is security and sustainability when you have your own space, said director Maggie Burns.

Having settled into their new home, the owners wanted to say thank you to Betty Dobbins relatives and let others know about her generosity. Problem was, they didnt have the foggiest idea who she was. They knew from their lawyer that Dobbin was from Newfoundland. They also knew shed willed $72,000 each to societies to fight Alzheimers disease, heart disease, cancer, blindness and leprosy. Dobbin also gave to a Cape Breton seniors society and a Catholic charity. In total, she donated more than $500,000 to charities in the Atlantic provinces.

The Ecology Action Centre wrote The Telegram requesting a search of the papers obituary files. A computer search and several phones calls eventually ended the mystery and revealed a story of an intelligent, generous woman.

Betty Dobbin and her husband William Dobbin had no children. They willed their life savings and property assets more than a $1 million to be split equally between the charities and family.

She didnt forget me, said Wilfred Howard, Betty Dobbins brother-in-law, who lives in the Sydney area. Howard and his wife would see the Dobbins every weekend until Alzheimers disease took control of Betty Dobbin. Howard noted Dobbin was well spoken and a devout Catholic.

We were going up to Antigonish one time and there was this snow storm. She had to stop at East Bay to go to church and I was waiting in the car and my feet were frozen. Im a Catholic myself, but Im not a good church-goer.

Howard said the Dobbins were teachers and then principals in high pay brackets and owned a beautiful home in south end Sydney. That explained the source of the mystery money.

But why the Ecology Action Centre?

Dobbins nephew in St. Johns, Ron Pellerin, said William Dobbin was a science teacher and loved the environment. Both Dobbins loved the outdoors and were angered by overfishing. William Dobbin started his own program of water conservation and home recycling in the 1960s.

They had a deep interest in science. They were ahead of their time when it comes to the environment, said Pellerin.

This is all news to Ecology Action Centre director Burns.

I got the shivers when you (told me) that. Its pretty moving that she lived such an amazing life and that her final gesture made such a significant impact on our lives.

Published on February 17, 2010
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