27 Year Love Story Cut Short; Legacy Lives on in $2.5 Million Estate Gift
February 28, 2019 – When Bruce Lane passed away last year, his combined estate with long-time partner Steven Gillette named the Central New York Community Foundation the recipient of over $2.5 million to support nine organizations important to them during their 27 year-long love story.
Both Lane and Gillette died young, cutting short their retirement years – Gillette in 2010 at age 57 after a sudden and short fight with pancreatic cancer and Lane in 2018 from unexpected complications of influenza. He was 66. But those who knew them, including Gillette‘s niece, Sara O’Toole, say that the time they had together on earth was filled with love, support and laughter.
“When they met through mutual friends in 1983, they both knew right away that this was it for them,” said O’Toole. “Over the course of their relationship, Bruce stopped smoking and Steve stopped drinking. They both committed to supporting one another through those struggles and made each other better and healthier. All the while, they shared a love of travel, adventure and spending quality time with their family and many friends.”
According to O’Toole, both men grew up in a time when it was a struggle to be open about being gay and marriage was not an option. They held a strong desire in their later years to support organizations that help people not have to go through experiences the same way they did.
The Bruce K. Lane and Steven E. Gillette Fund will be endowed and administered by the Community Foundation to ensure long-term annual support to some of the couple’s most cherished organizations.
“Losing my uncles at such young ages has helped me to appreciate that you have to take advantage of the opportunities that you have because you don’t know how much time you have left,” said O’Toole. “It is comforting to know that their memory will live on in the organizations that they held most dear.”
While the couple retired to Florida only a few years before Gillette passed away, the two spent the majority of their lives in Central New York. Gillette graduated from Jefferson Community College and SUNY Binghamton before working for 23 years at United Technologies, a Carrier Corporation company, as director of information and business systems. He retired in 2003 while working as information technology director for Syroco in Baldwinsville. Lane, who grew up in Liverpool, worked for Paper Conversions in Syracuse his entire career – from college graduation to retirement in 2002.
Lane was described by O’Toole as “full of life and light.” Both had a zest for new experiences and seeing the world while appreciating retirement. They were also active in many charitable causes during their lifetimes, especially those that fostered dignity, respect, understanding and a continuum of care for people and pets. Gillette was especially passionate about advocacy and LGBTQ causes, serving as chairman of the board of AIDS Community Resources, now ACR Health, in Syracuse. He was also a frequent contributor to newspapers with letters of opposition to leaders and policies that restricted civil and equal rights.
One of the organizations to receive support from their fund is the CNYSPCA. While the couple never had children, they shared a fondness for animals, especially their beloved dog, Tonya. Denise Adams, shelter manager at the CNYSPCA, states the funding will help the organization to continue and expand its spay/neuter clinics, humane education and humane law enforcement programs.
“This gift will help us to provide fundamental community outreach programs,” said Adams. “This consistent funding will be put towards providing low-income individuals with low-cost veterinary care and safety net programs. In addition, we will be able to educate the community on proper pet care and the humane treatment of all living creatures. This work ensures that all pets in our region are cared for properly.”
Lane and Gillette’s fund was established through a combined trust and estate gift. Their fund will begin sending annual support to nine charities this year. Endowment funds are designed to benefit the community in perpetuity. In the case of designated funds, the Community Foundation uses a percentage of the fund each year to award grants to nonprofits named by the donor. The remaining fund balance is invested, growing to keep up with inflation to increase the annual spendable allowance. Over time, the cumulative amount of grants awarded is expected to surpass the original gift used to seed the fund.
“The power of endowment takes the generosity of amazing people like Bruce and Steven and ensures that their charitable wishes persevere through generations,” said Thomas Griffith, vice president, development of the Community Foundation. “They had an interest in giving back to the communities they loved and put a plan in place to make it happen. We’re honored to be the stewards of their community legacy.”
This designated fund is designed to perpetually support Binghamton University Foundation and Jefferson Community College Foundation, in recognition of Gillette’s alma maters; Pet Project, Poverello Center, Broward House and Hospice of CNY, to provide dignified support for those living with HIV/AIDS or other disabling/terminal conditions; CNY SPCA and Humane Society of Broward County, to promote respect, kindness and welfare for all animals; and the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of South Florida, to foster advocacy, education, human services, social opportunities and personal development for the LGBTQ community.
For O’Toole, Lane and Gillette’s fund will ensure their strongly held beliefs carry on: “Steve and Bruce will be remembered as people who were committed to their family and to each other and who cared a great deal about making the world a better place for others – giving people opportunities who otherwise might not have them and taking care of all living beings with dignity and respect. Their combined legacy will enable good works to continue for generations to come.”
The Central New York Community Foundation was established in 1927 to serve as a permanent community endowment built by the gifts and charitable legacies of individuals, families and businesses for the betterment of the region. It is the largest charitable foundation in Central New York with assets of more than $272 million. It has invested more than $190 million in community improvement projects since its inception. As a grantmaker, civic leader, convener and sponsor of special initiatives, the Community Foundation strives to strengthen local nonprofits, encourage better understanding of the region and address the most critical issues of our time. Its vision is to create a vibrant Central New York community that provides opportunity for everyone and builds a hopeful, prosperous region for future generations.