Several years ago, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) educator John R. Manken chose Solheim Lutheran Home for his elderly mother. Although she never resided at the Eagle Rock retirement community before passing away, Manken still wrote a $1.2 million gift for Solheim into his will.
Solheim announced the receipt of Manken’s $1.2 million bequest, the single largest gift from an individual in its 90-year history.
“We usually receive donations from family members of our residents who appreciate the exceptional care that our staff provides to their loved one so this record gift took us totally by surprise,” said Solheim Development director Tina Antypas. “A gift like this enables us to continue to help provide loving care for seniors at a time in their life when they need compassion the most. It is such a wonderful blessing.”
Manken was a devout Lutheran who died at the age of 89 from a heart attack in March 2012. He had never married and had no descendants. He also left a sizable bequest to California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks and left funds to a Lutheran church in Pacific Palisades that he attended.
Manken was a native Californian whose parents moved to Los Angeles from Minnesota and owned a plumbing business. He received a master’s degree in music from the University of Southern California (USC) and after a year touring as a concert pianist, decided to become a teacher and returned to USC to earn a doctorate in educational administration. Manken later became a teacher and eventually a principal for the LAUSD. He enjoyed encouraging students to pursue the arts and entertaining his staff several times a year at his Pacific Palisades home.
Those who knew Manken well said that he had a great sense of humor and was always very thoughtful of others – living his life as a reflection of the teachings of his faith. His estate went primarily to Lutheran organizations as a tribute.
Manken’s gift will be used to make renovations to the Solheim’s campus and remodel its memory care wing including a special “memory box” outside each resident’s room where they can display their special mementos and photos. Solheim will be renovating its dining room and interior spaces as well and the gift will also enable the organization to continue to provide charitable care to residents who outlive their financial assets so they can continue to live at Solheim.