Donor’s Last Minute Change Leads to $1M Bequest


Jim S. Freeman presenting a check on behalf of his late uncle to Lahey Hospital & Medical Center CEO, Joanne Conroy, MD.

James Freeman was a self-made man who knew the value of a dollar, having grown up during the Great Depression. After serving in World War II, he worked as a machinist in Lexington, scraping together enough money to buy a pipe fitting company in 1957. He walked to that job every day and was cautious not to waste anything.

“Every week, he’d buy a loaf of bread and sandwich stuff, and when the loaf was gone, he’d save the bag and use it for next week’s lunch,” said James S. Freeman, his nephew.

With a charitableness born of his frugality, Freeman had been a generous supporter of Lahey Hospital & Medical Center over the years. And just three weeks before his death at age 94 in October 2014, he amended his will to leave a $1 million bequest upon his death to the hospital, where he had received sporadic – but impressive – care over the years. His gift will benefit the hospital’s new leading-edge Emergency Department now under construction and scheduled to open in 2017.

“To all the personnel at your fine establishment,” read a hand-written note he sent enclosed with $10,000 check in 2013. “The enclosed will express any thanks for all of your selfless help. And, I’m under paying!!”

Years before, Freeman had decided to leave a generous gift to Lahey in his estate plan, which also designated funds for education-related causes and provided for his family members.

Then, in 2014, he visited the Emergency Department just two months before he would pass away. No one in his family is exactly sure why he decided to change his will, but his nephew suspects it may have had something to do with the excellent care he received, perhaps on that final trip to the Emergency Department. The change meant that Lahey will receive the gift immediately, rather than in several decades after his trusts had been fulfilled.

“He told his widow at one point that the people at Lahey were nice to him,” said Freeman’s nephew.

On April 12, James S. Freeman presented a check to Lahey Hospital & Medical Center CEO, Joanne Conroy, MD.