A Lasting Legacy to Benefit the Performing Arts

Share this post:

Eli and Martha Bekkum turned to The Community Foundation to help create a legacy gift for the performing arts.

Eli and Martha Bekkum fell in love thanks to the theater, and the theater now has them to thank.

As part of their estate plans, the Bekkums set up a permanent endowed fund at The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida to benefit the performing arts in perpetuity.

A mutual love for the theater

Their story began in 1974. Martha was involved in productions at Players by the Sea when some theater friends set them up on a date. Eli had just moved to Jacksonville, bought a new Volkswagen van, and became a roommate of one of her friends.

Fifty years later, the Bekkums’ love of the performing arts, visual arts, and live theater has been a hallmark of their lives. The Doctors Inlet residents have seen performances in cities across the country, including many trips to Broadway, and supported the arts locally. They have volunteered with the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville and with the FSCJ Artist Series as their Head Volunteers for 30 years. They have volunteered with and served on the Boards of the Half Shell Repertory Theatre in Southern Maryland, The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNF, The Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens, The University Club of Jacksonville, the Five & Dime, a Theatre Company, and of course, Players by the Sea.

“Every live performance you ever see is always a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s never the same and can never be duplicated,” Martha said.

A growing nest egg

Through the years, they saw their retirement savings grow.

They took advantage of a generous 401(k) match through Eli’s 38-year career as an Engineering Manager at The Boeing Company, where Eli drove his beloved VW van every day to work in rain, sleet, snow and heat. When Eli’s sisters were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the Bekkums started to make their estate plans. They knew of The Community Foundation through news about Delores Barr Weaver’s philanthropy. With the help of John Zell, Vice President of Development, they set up an endowed
field of interest fund to support the performing arts in Northeast Florida in perpetuity, created from their savings at the time of their deaths.

The joy of giving through The Community Foundation

Through the process of planning their legacy, they’ve also come to experience the joy of giving now. They have loved learning about community issues at Donors Forum and meeting other donors in The Community Foundation network. In fact, they recently put the VW Van in a car show organized by two fellow fundholders at The Community Foundation, Matthew and Michelle Birt, for their scholarship fund which
honors their son, Talen.

When they recently had to withdraw required minimum distributions from their IRA, they underwrote the theater program at the North Florida School of Special Education. They walked away from the students’ performance profoundly moved.

“After we saw their production, I wrote a note to our financial advisor telling him that was the best investment we ever made,” Martha said.

Eli Bekkum drove the same VW van for years, while his retirement savings grew.

Sign Up for Our Email Newsletter