Hendricks County lost a great friend when Fred Raths of Avon passed away on June 11, 2016. With his passing at age 87, our community lost a humble and anonymous benefactor. He and his late wife Bonnie, who died in 2007, had an incredible impact on our community through the anonymous grants they made from the Raths Family Fund, which they established in 1999 at the Community Foundation.
Fred was born October 31, 1928, in Quincy, Illinois, to John and Mary Ellen Raths, immigrants from Switzerland. Fred graduated from Quincy High School in 1946 and studied at the University of Illinois, graduating with a Bachelors in Chemistry in 1950. At the University of Illinois, he met the love of his life, Bonnie Puls Raths, and they married in 1951. Soon after, he and Bonnie moved to Iowa City, Iowa, where Fred continued his education obtaining his Masters and Doctorate degrees in Organic Chemistry from the University of Iowa. After graduation, Fred began work as a research chemist for Dow Chemical in Midland, Michigan. In 1958, he moved his young family to Memphis, Tennessee, to start work at Buckman Laboratories. Fred worked for Buckman Laboratories for 31 years before retiring in 1989 as Vice President of Operations.
In 1997, Fred and Bonnie moved to Avon to be closer to their son Richard and his family. They were always active as volunteers and enjoyed serving the community together. Fred was active in delivering meals for Meals on Wheels to the elderly and handicapped, and they were members of Messiah Lutheran Church in Brownsburg as well as Kingsway Christian Church in Avon.
Deedee Daniel, the first Executive Director of HCCF, remembers when Fred and Bonnie stopped in to her office in Plainfield. Deedee recalls their first meeting, “I usually worked with people that I already knew in the community, but it was different with the Raths. They just walked in the door and said, ‘We’d like to talk with you about the Community Foundation.’” Fred told her the reason behind their visit, “Bonnie and I believe very strongly we need to give back to where we’re living.”
“They didn’t really know what they wanted to do with their giving in Hendricks County,” Deedee said, “which is why they came to the Community Foundation.” They found a perfect fit in a donor advised fund, which offers power and flexibility to the donor while accessing the deep expertise of HCCF. Donor advised funds also provide the opportunity to involve other family members in the grantmaking decision process. “Once the fund was established, Fred and Bonnie would gather with their children and grandchildren at Christmas to go over grant applications and decide where the grant money would go.”
Fred and Bonnie made all their grants from the Raths Family Fund anonymously to support a variety of causes close to their hearts. They wanted to support organizations and projects primarily in Hendricks County, but not to the exclusion of worthwhile projects that may reach outside of the county. They desired to fund programming that helps people in need, improves health and wellness, supports community enhancement, and projects that affect the largest groups of people. Fred also provided a substantial gift during the recent GIFT VI campaign for HCCF to use as a challenge grant to encourage new gifts to unrestricted funds.
Fred and Bonnie partnered with HCCF to extend their impact because of our grantmaking expertise and knowledge of our community, while also trusting us to maintain their anonymity. Fred and Bonnie’s children graciously consented to publishing this tribute.
In an interview in July 2014, Fred explained that they also started the fund because of the lasting quality of endowed funds at the Community Foundation. “A permanent fund means we can give back to our community every year while preserving our original investment.”
A permanent donor advised fund like the Raths Family Fund will forever be part of positive change in Hendricks County. Even without any additional gifts, the Raths Family Fund will continue to offer substantial grants every year to charitable programming. After about 25 years, more will have been granted from the fund than was originally gifted to the Community Foundation, and the principal of the fund will continue forever.
As Deedee put it recently, “To me, the Raths Fund is the epitome of somebody saying, ‘Wherever we live, we’re going to be part of the community, and we’re giving back.’ Fred and Bonnie were devoted community servants, caring neighbors, and a great team.”
William Rhodehamel, HCCF’s current Executive Director, never met Bonnie, but he came to know Fred well over the last four years of his life. “I’d take him to lunch and we’d talk for two or three hours about different projects and how his grantmaking could lead to better outcomes for our community. He was sharp as a tack and focused on where he could make a difference. Fred was remarkable. He never wanted recognition for his giving or grantmaking. His generosity humbled me.”
Fred and Bonnie are survived by their son and daughter and their spouses, Richard and Carmen Raths, and Susan and Scott Hooper, and four grandchildren: Bradford, Jeremy, Sarah and Meredith. As Fred’s obituary stated, “Fred was a devoted husband, loving father and grandfather. He was very proud of his Swiss heritage and never forgot his family roots. His profound impact – on the community in which he lived and on the lives of his family and friends – will be dearly missed and forever remembered with much love and gratitude.”
With Fred and Bonnie’s gifts, HCCF will be able to preserve and grow their legacy, ensuring that their contributions to our community will continue forever.
Find out how you can leave a legacy like Fred and Bonnie. Contact us today!