January 2, 2010

USA: Quiet nurse's death bequest amazes many

. TULSA, Oklahoma / Tulsa World / January 2, 2010 By Kim Archer, World Staff Writer Who was Vivian Hotuiz? She died quietly in September at University Village in Tulsa at the age of 94. Then, like a miracle Christmas gift, it was discovered as the holiday approached that the retired nurse had left $1.8 million to her alma mater, Marquette University's College of Nursing. "It was a surprise," said Vanessa Neal, vice president at University Village's retirement home, 8555 S. Lewis Ave. Sherri Brown, a social worker at the retirement facility, said: "It was like, 'Oh, my gosh!' You would never have known." Amazingly, it was the largest donation in the Milwaukee college's history. Vivian Hotuiz, who died in Tulsa in September at the age of 94, is seen in two pictures, one when she was a Navy nurse. When she died, she left $1.8 million to Marquette University's College of Nursing. Daryl Wilson /Tulsa World The money was directed to be used for scholarship aid. Hotuiz was a 1953 graduate of the program. But nobody knew who she was. "She was proud of being a nurse," Brown said. "That was definitely her calling." The elderly woman gave no indication that she had money or had come from money. Neal said Hotuiz "wore the same clothes all the time and had an old car. She couldn't drive, but she wanted that car." Hotuiz moved to University Village in 2001. Little is known of her life before that year. "By the time she came to live with us, she was already in dementia," Neal said. "She really kept to herself and didn't talk much. She wasn't very outgoing, but she was a sweet lady." According to her obituary, Hotuiz was born in Edwardsville, Ill., and was preceded in death by her parents, two brothers and a sister. She was a nurse at the Veterans Hospital in Madison, Wis., before being appointed assistant chief of the Muskogee VA hospital's nursing service in 1969, according to a newspaper article. Hotuiz was a Navy nurse during World War II, and at some point, she listed her religious affiliation as Methodist. She never married and had no children. Because she was the last surviving member of her family, a J.P. Morgan trust officer was entrusted to carry out her wishes. Because of a confidentiality agreement, the officer politely declined to answer any questions about Hotuiz. A second cousin, Ann Sido Bove, who lives in St. Charles, Mo., doesn't know much about Hotuiz. She knows that Hotuiz was her father's cousin, and she remembers seeing her frequently as a child and at family reunions. When asked whether Hotuiz came from money, Bove laughed. "Oh, no. Not at all," she said. "She just lived very carefully, evidently. If you've never married or had children, you can accumulate." Judy Quirk of Belleville, Ill., knew Hotuiz some 20 years ago when her late brother was married to Hotuiz's sister, Genie. "She was a very in-charge lady," she said. "She was not particularly warm, not a very affectionate person." Yet Hotuiz was definitely a caregiver, Quirk said. "She liked to drive everywhere. She was very independent," she said. "She was probably very thrifty. I know that." Jessica Nithianandan, activities director at University Village, found some of Hotuiz's life story in a white paper shopping bag filled with pictures, diplomas, certificates and postcards, all gathered from the woman's apartment after her death. Inside were her sister's military records; her brother's funeral book and flower cards; numerous pictures of her siblings and their parents; her Navy nurse dog tags; a 30-year service certificate awarded to her by the Veterans Administration in 1968; and a photo of her riding a camel in Egypt in 1977. "She was always looking out for other people," Brown said. "It was never about her." Nithianandan added, "Her nursing always came out." Despite her dementia, Hotuiz was "a very wise person. She was very sharp," Brown said. "The sad thing is you learn more about a person sometimes after they die." One thing everyone agreed on is that Hotuiz was a caretaker and a giver. And it seems she left her most surprising gift for last. "That was our sweet Vivian," Nithianandan said. [rc] Kim Archer E-Mail: kim.archer@tulsaworld.com Copyright © 2010, World Publishing Co.