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Meaningful gift from an animal lover

By Pat Johnson

Published 2:56 PDT, Thu October 31, 2019

Last Updated: 2:13 PDT, Wed May 12, 2021

When Jackie Brown was going through her late mother’s apartment, she found a Post-It note in a drawer.

“It said, $25,000 to the Richmond Archives and $25,000 to RAPS,” Jackie recalled recently. “I thought, well, she didn’t have a lot. She had a small pension, but she owned her townhome free and clear—that was very important to her. She was always very happy that I volunteered at RAPS and thought it was such a wonderful organization that did such good things that she wanted to support it after she passed away. I thought, it’s not in the will but that’s her money and that’s what she wants to do, so that’s what we did.”

Her mom, Geraldine (Dody) Wray, was from two Richmond pioneering families—the Kidds and the Blairs. Her older brother, Gil Blair, was mayor of Richmond from 1973 to 1990. Just as famous as her brother in certain circles, Dody worked at the Richmond Public Library and taught local kids for decades, first in kindergarten and later at Brighouse elementary school. 

Except for a few years up the coast, Dody lived all her life in Richmond, much of it on the family farm, on No. 3 Road between Finn and the dike, where Jackie grew up and still lives. Dody grew up helping on the farm, which raised thoroughbred horses, among other things. After selling the farmhouse to Jackie’s family, Dody bought a townhouse on Garry Street, backing onto Steveston Park, and she lived there for the last 39 years of her life, until her passing in Oct. 2018. 

“She loved it there,” Jackie said. She also loved dogs and cats. From her childhood, there were always animals around.

“In 1980, a stray showed up in her yard, so of course she fed him,” says Jackie. “She took him down to the shelter and nobody claimed him, so she went back and adopted him. His name was Gypsy, because she found him wandering.”

When Gypsy passed away, she got another rescue, named Tuffy, and her last dog was Champ, who was with Dody for 12-and-a-half years. 

“She walked them three or four times a day in Steveston Park and every day they had their routine,” Jackie recalls. “Champ used to lie down on the floor with mom when she did her stretches and exercises. Then they would have their breakfasts and mom would clean Champ’s teeth and brush his hair. She also had a cat in there for a number of years, two cats actually, and the cats got their teeth brushed too. That was the routine every morning.”

She adds: “I have not known another person who scrubs their cat’s teeth. But if mom said, ‘Sit down I’m going to scrub your teeth,’ you did.” 

“She was a pretty spunky, sassy woman,” Jackie says of her mom. “She was eight days short of her 91st birthday when she passed away.”

Since Jackie volunteers at the City shelter, she saw the mess that the leaking old washing machine was making and she designated part of her mom’s gift to replacing the washer and dryer with commercial grade new ones. The rest of the funds are going to the RAPS Cat Sanctuary. 

“She would have wanted it to go to keep those animals alive and well,” says Jackie. 

“Gifts like Dody’s are such an important way to support the work RAPS does saving and improving the lives of animals,” says Eyal Lichtmann, CEO and executive director of RAPS. “It is also a meaningful way for people to continue making a positive contribution to the world even after they have passed.”

RAPS has financial and estate planners who volunteer to help people include charitable contributions in their wills—including some ways that offer financial benefits during the person’s lifetime. More information is available at

Pat Johnson is communications manager for the Regional Animal Protection Society.

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