Legacy Stories

Mom and daughter hugging

Each gift is an act of lasting generosity.

Every family or individual who chooses to make a planned gift or endowment to Dignity Health Foundation - East Valley has a story behind their act of kindness. Here you can read a few of these legacy stories. Inspired by what you see? Please contact us to learn more about how you can be a part of our legacy society.

Sister Marian Joseph

Sister Marian Joseph: A life — a legacy — of care and ministry

Born at the beginning of the Great Depression, Joan Mae Kelly was the youngest of three children raised on an expansive family farm in Gilbert, Arizona. She was just nine years-old when her father, Everett Kelly, passed away suddenly at age 34. Joan, her brother Everett Jr. and her sister Dora, were raised by their mother, Gladys Barnes Kelly, a strong woman who ran the farm and rose from bank employee to serve as its President. Joan’s early years on the farm with a strong mother as a role model shaped her inner strength, her faith and her incredible tenacity. Neighboring farmers remember the little girl climbing trees and challenging boys to races. They knew she would grow up to be a formidable woman.

Joan went on to study nursing at St. Joseph Hospital’s School of Nursing in Phoenix and became a registered nurse in 1952. After working briefly as a pediatric nurse, she entered the Sisters of Mercy in Burlingame, California, and was given her religious name, Sister Marian Joseph. Many sisters described her as a strong, bold young woman who subsequently earned both her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of San Francisco and her Masters in Nursing from the University of California at San Francisco. After serving as both a nursing administrator and clinical instructor, she joined Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield, California, where she proudly served for nearly two decades as Director of the Intensive Care Unit and a part of the hospital’s administrative team with responsibilities for planning. With an eye toward the upcoming changes in both health care delivery and the community's needs, Sister Marian Joseph oversaw the hospital’s new patient tower project, ensuring the construction of a facility that would last well into the future. During this time she was also a formidable fundraiser for the hospital.

Although she returned to San Francisco in 1982 to become a part of the planning team for St. Mary’s Hospital and the Bay Region of Catholic Healthcare West (now CommonSpirit Health), Sister Marian Joseph never forgot her roots in Arizona nor her love for the community.

Sister Marian Joseph passed away in 2020 at the age of 89,
but not before quietly leaving one final gift to plan for the future
of health care in her birthplace of Arizona;
a gift she had only mentioned once.


After nearly fifty years of dedicated nursing and administrative service, Sister Marian Joseph retired in 2001. She was completely dedicated to the church and her health care work, and was often described by those who knew her as a faithful, strong and decisive woman and an insightful friend. Unknown to many, she was also a quiet philanthropist, giving generously to many organizations and efforts that touched her heart.

Sister Marian Joseph passed away in 2020 at the age of 89, but not before quietly leaving one final gift to plan for the future of health care in her birthplace of Arizona; a gift she only mentioned once.

Although women religious leave their personal worldly possessions to the community upon their passing, Sister Marian Joseph was part of a family trust that included Arizona farmland. Valued at nearly $11 million in 2022, the trust named Mercy Gilbert Medical Center as its beneficiary. It was Sister Marian Joseph’s wish that the gift would benefit her childhood community and honor her parents Everett and Gladys Barnes Kelly.

“News of Sister Marian Joseph’s transformational generosity came as a surprise to almost all,” says Julie Alvarado, Chief Philanthropy Officer at Gilbert’s Dignity Health Foundation - East Valley. “A former staff member remembers a single conversation with her in which she mentioned a trust gift but provided no details. We’re now in the very fortunate process of working to determine how best to honor her extraordinary kindness and her family’s profound commitment to our community.”

Projects currently in discussion are the expansion of Mercy Gilbert Medical Center’s comprehensive women’s care and neurosurgery programs. As the population of Arizona’s East Valley region is growing and aging, the need for further enhanced neurosurgical capabilities, especially in the area of stroke care, is increasingly evident. The expansion of operating room facilities and the addition of a state-of-the-art bi-plane imaging scanner would mean that patients arriving to Mercy Gilbert with complex needs for care and surgery following a stroke or brain injury would be able to remain in their community. The growing population is also requiring expansion in the care of women and children. This forward-thinking planning to care for the community perfectly echoes the decades of work by Sister Marian Joseph.

Elsewhere in the hospital, a potential fund is being discussed to support mission-aligned community benefit and outreach programs to assist those in need. Such a fund, named to honor Sister Marian Joseph and her parents Everett and Gladys Kelly, would further their family commitment to the region and her life-long spirit of service and ministry for those most vulnerable.

Ella Lerner – a Legacy of Service

Ella Lerner

The late Ella Lerner, a dedicated hospital volunteer and Holocaust survivor, gave of her time, talent and treasure to support Chandler Regional Medical Center for more than 26 years. Ella lived to celebrate her 100th birthday. She retired from volunteering in the gift shop in 2016 and was honored with the United States Presidential Service Award for her many years of dedicated services. Ella named Chandler Regional Medical Center as a beneficiary in her estate. We honor the incredible life and legacy of giving Ella provided by naming the gift shop at Chandler Regional in her honor.

Althoff Family – a Legacy of Service

Althoff Family - combo photos
After years of volunteering for Chandler Regional Medical Center, David and P.J. Althoff continued their service and giving through a legacy gift to the Foundation. They had the vision and made the generous act to invest in life-saving equipment, services and education for the future. 

Following in his father's footsteps, David became a board member of the hospital's foundation in 1973. Both of David's parents were involved in fundraising and helping to build the initial hospital. When David retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1972, his father was ready to retire from the board and asked David to become involved. Which he did, and continued his service on the community board until 1999. During his 26 years of service, including the chairmanship for 9 years, David thoroughly enjoyed his work, the people and the dedication of those he worked with to build a new hospital to meet the needs of the rapidly-growing Chandler area. David used his experience as a real estate broker, to negotiate the new location with the city and selecting the company to build the new hospital. For him, it was almost a full-time job working with the contractors on a daily basis until the doors opened.  

David's beloved wife P.J., who has now passed on, was semi-famous in our community for being among the entourage who made the walk from the old hospital to the new one. She was the last to enter the building as everyone applauded and P.J. told everyone that the Althoffs really felt like it was their hospital – a sentiment the Chandler Regional Medical Center team hopes to continue today. 

While she was alive, P.J. volunteered in the hospital gift shop and the information desk donating more than 15,000 hours of service! For years, she hand-sewed stuffed animals that were distributed to thousands of children admitted to the emergency department or to the hospital for surgery. P.J.'s infectious smile is certainly missed.  

Despite both growing up in Illinois, the Althoffs finally met in 1950 at Arizona State University. It was love at first sight they say. Together they raised 5 children, although P.J. often took on the job single-handedly as David had 20 years of active service including 1,080 combat missions in Vietnam. During his second tour to Vietnam, he received the 1968 Marine Aviator of the Year award.  In fact he earned over 76 medals, flew 26 different types of aircraft and was shot down 4 times.  You can find him in the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame as well as the Veterans Hall of Fame.   He would certainly be included in a Chandler Regional Medical Center Hall of Fame.  

Martells – a Dynamic Duo

Martells photo collage
When Gene Martell was alive, he was asked why they wished to leave a legacy for Chandler Regional Hospital and he stated matter-of factly, that it seemed like a good idea to promote a high level of healthcare in the Southeast Valley. Gene and Pat Martell were a team and married for over 46 years, yet they have been friends since first grade in Midland Pennsylvania - where his family owned a clothing store and her dad was a superintendent at the steel mill.  

In high school, Pat was a cheerleader and Gene played three sports, going onto a football scholarship at Notre Dame. Pat spent two years at Grove City College and then worked at Mellon Bank and Rockwell Manufacturing. In 1956, Gene received his bachelor's degree in finance and English and was offered a professional football contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Instead he elected to attend graduate school at the University of Toledo where he was a graduate assistant and football coach. He graduated with a master's degree in guidance counseling and administration.  

It was during the graduate school years that Gene and Pat were married. After receiving his degree, Gene coached football at Toledo University followed by a stint as counselor and principal at a Junior High School. Two years were spent as director of education for the Ottawa Job Corps and then as a career counselor at SUNY Baffalo, soon becoming the director.  Together they had three children and seven grandchildren. It was while visiting their son at the Air Force Base at Williams Field that they decided to retire to Arizona and Sun Lakes was lucky enough to welcome them in 1996.  

Both have been avid volunteers. Pat worked at the University of Buffalo and also volunteered with the American Red Cross.  She has been an active member of the Chandler Regional Medical Center volunteer team and together they served as co-President of the volunteer board.  Gene was also a Lions Club and United Way volunteer. After serving in leadership of the volunteer board, he also became President of the Arizona Association of Hospital Volunteers. For many years you could see them both volunteering and fundraising at the hospital golf tournament.  

Gene is sorely missed. Pat and her family are glad his legacy will live on in the higher standard of healthcare in which he chose to invest so much of his time and treasure.  

Sallie and Paul Brown – Giving Entreprenuers

Paul and Sallie first met in Connecticut in 1955 and they celebrated over 49 years of marriage before Paul passed on. They ran a ski lodge, restaurant and shops stores in snowy Vermont before relocating to sunny Sun Lakes in 2001, to be near their son Sam who lived in Casa Grande. They had the best of both worlds visiting daughter Wendy in Cape Cod each summer. By training Paul was a process engineer and served in Korea.  Sallie was a teacher and also a substance abuse education specialist.  Always they were active community members wherever they resided. 

For Sallie, her history of volunteering – from running a blood bank to hospital pediatrics – was fostered by her parents and has carried through to her own children. She continues to support the Casa Grande Alliance and the Sun Lakes Rotary despite her own health issues.  Paul was a Rotarian and Paul Harris Fellow, and also  the President of the Sun Lakes Community Foundation.  

For Paul, among his proudest accomplishments was opening the Robson Sun Lakes Library in October of 2004. He was chairman of the Library Community Foundation, the committee that raised over $1 million dollars to ensure a tax-free library in their community.  Paul was also a supporter of the nursing staff at Chandler Regional and hoped to lead this fundraising effort before he passed on.  

Sallie took up Paul's request and asked the Foundation to help her set up a charitable gift annuity (CGA) in Paul's honor. This CGA allows donors to convert a highly appreciated asset into lifetime income, reducing income taxes with a charitable income tax deduction, and reducing or eliminating estate taxes. Sallie funded her CGA to the Foundation with a gift of appreciated stock, which not only enabled her to name a room on the 4th floor in Paul's honor, but also realize a savings from capital gains taxes. 

"Because we are more fortunate than a lot of other people in the world, we need to give back some of our good fortune," Sallie explains.  And that's what the Browns were generous enough to do. By sharing some of their good fortune with our Foundation, the Brown family has given back to the many who will benefit from high quality care at Chandler Regional Medical Center.