Alice Erikson Cox and her husband Joe were millionaires who traveled around the world until her husband died when she returned home to spend her last years near her birthplace in the tiny town of Lake Lillian, Minn.
The widowed Cox died last year at age 97 and left her fortune of $6 million to the place she called her “motherland.”
Lake Lillian has a population of 238 people, but they will have to share Cox’s bounty with the rest of rural Kandyohi County, which has only 42,000 residents. Cox left her fortune to the Willmar Community Area Foundation which serves the county.
“Alice had been born and raised in Lake Lillian,” said Barbra Carlson, the director of development at the Central Minnesota Community Foundation which oversees the Willmar Community Area Foundation. “She lived there until she was a young woman at which time she moved to California.”
“She had traveled almost throughout the world. She had marvelous sense of humor she was very generous both with charity and family member and friends. Her philosophy of life was one that said she should share,” Carlson said.
Her husband Joseph made a fortune through the invention and patent of a chain used by most modern chainsaws. Cox returned to Minnesota after her husband died.
Carlson characterized Cox’s donation as a gift to her hometown.
“It’s my motherland,” said Cox in a video last year. “It’s the heart of America [and] being I was born and raised in Lake Lillian, I’m at home. ”
Carlson said that during her first meeting with Cox, the elderly widow teased that she was going to “spend it all” before she died.
Carlson said she did not want to speculate about how exactly the money would be spent, although she emphasized that Cox had put no restrictions on the funds.