Webster woman leaves her legacy with $4.2 million donation

Published: Jul. 10, 2017 at 6:43 PM CDT
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It's not every day someone leaves millions of dollars to a small town they grew to love. Phyllis Hanse, a piano teacher in Webster, did just that after she passed away last year at the age of 98.

Hanse has always had a charitable intent for her hometown. She's been working on this big donation for quite some time, but made her wishes known to Tom Sannes, lawyer in Webster, about 5 or 6 years ago.

She has given her donation of $4.2 million to the small town to help out with high school scholarships, youth programs, the library and the local church. Hanse was a prominent figure in the community with teaching thousands of children over many decades how to play the piano.

"She loved kids. She was a very optimistic person," said Sannes, who has known Hanse his entire life. "She loved seeing what was happening with our school and our high school kids."

Students at the high school will have a chance to benefit from Hanse's donation through two different types of scholarships. One is for students that will attend Augustana University, which will flow through the school's foundation. The other is set up through the Webster Alumni Foundation, which is set up under the South Dakota Community Foundation and will benefit students attending other schools.

The details are still getting ironed out for the alumni scholarship, but it's a legacy that will continue to live on.

"I hear a lot of great stories about her and to know that the legacy of what she values will continue on forever and ever is pretty remarkable," says Amy Miller, the assistant principal at the Webster School District.

Sannes says the funds are going to be a game-changer for the Webster community that will hopefully last forever.

"I think there's a lot of good ideas being spoken about among community members to make this a last impact for the community," explains Sannes.

Hanse began teaching piano lessons in 1953, when she moved back to Webster to manage her father's farming interests after his death.

Sannes says Hanse was an only child and had no children of her own, but that she was a fixture at local children's sporting events and high school activities.