It would be hard to estimate the number of people touched by Miss Mary Ernestine Pittman of Clinton in her 80 years of life.
You could begin with those who benefitted from the benevolence and mission funds that she supported faithfully at Fellowship Baptist Church in Jackson, then add in the community members who cherished her friendship, and multiply it by those helped by the numerous charities she gave to during her life. But even then, your estimate would probably be low.
Miss Pittman never married or had children. She retired from South Central Bell at the age of 55, and enjoyed a long retirement, keeping busy by teaching Sunday school, singing in her church choir, visiting community members with needs, and traveling.
“She supported the church faithfully for 47 years, from the time she joined until she passed away,” said the Rev. Carl Floyd of Fellowship Baptist. Miss Pittman, he said, loved God and loved people, and would do anything in the world for someone with a need.
“She was something,” he said. “You can't replace a person like that.”
Her friends and church family knew her as a giver in terms of her time, her efforts, and her finances, but when Miss Pittman passed away after a brief battle with cancer, it became evident that the extent of her giving spirit was much larger than they knew. Miss Pittman left a significant portion of her estate to Batson Children's Hospital by naming it as a beneficiary of her retirement account.
“We could not do what we do for the children of Mississippi without the support of caring community members like Miss Pittman,” said Dr. Rick Barr, the Suzan B. Thames Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “As the state's only children's hospital, we have a big responsibility to our children and families, and we're grateful beyond measure to those who ensure we can provide them with the best care possible.”
Sara Campbell, Miss Pittman's neighbor since 2003, had become quite close to her. “I told her when she moved in across the street that I was the neighborhood 'nosey rosy,' but in a good way,” said Campbell. “For 12 years, I watched to make sure she was home safely each night.”
Campbell also made sure Miss Pittman's affairs were in order after her passing. She remembers her friend as someone who shared everything she had with everyone she knew, and someone who “supported more charities than I knew existed.”
According to Campbell, Miss Pittman was very deliberate in everything she did. So deliberate and thoughtful was Miss Pittman that she chose to leave her car to a fellow church member, because that lady always brought someone with her to church, and the car would certainly help in this endeavor.
Campbell was not surprised by Miss Pittman's gift to Batson Children's Hospital, because “Ernestine believed in giving to help make things better for other people, and she believed in what the Children's Hospital was and is doing.”
Miss Pittman's gift was planned without any fanfare or notice to anyone at Batson or UMMC. “We don't know what specifically inspired Miss Ernestine to think of us when she was making her estate plans, but her planned gift will make a great impact on our mission to ensure that the children of Mississippi get the best medical care possible,” said Guy Giesecke, CEO of Children's of Mississippi. “Her generous spirit will continue to touch many, many lives.”
Miss Pittman spent her last 15 days in the hospital, and, as Campbell recounted, she had multiple visitors during the entire time. “Sometimes there would be 20 people in the waiting room, praying for her. There were people there 24 hours a day,” she said. “To me, that tells you who Ernestine really was. Those people were there because Ernestine had impacted their lives.”
Any estimate that could be made regarding the number of lives Ernestine Pittman touched would be low, indeed. A woman who lived a quiet, unassuming life, she is warmly remembered by a host of people, and she will continue to touch the lives of the children and families of Mississippi for years to come– a worthy legacy of a life dedicated to giving.
For more information on making a planned gift to University of Mississippi Medical Center, please contact Natalie Hutto, CPA, J.D., Director of Gift Planning at 601-984-2306 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Keri Henley, J.D., Planned Giving Specialist at 601-984-2841 or email@example.com.
By Brandi Van Ormer