Former Atascadero resident Bertha Shultz, described by friends as quick-witted, compassionate and humble, quietly donated millions of dollars to several public agencies when she died in June.
Bertha and her husband, Robert, who preceded her in death, owned a plumbing business in Morro Bay in the 1950s and developed homes there before moving to Atascadero in the 1970s.
“They were a beautiful couple who worked together and played together,” said Steve Maguire, the couple’s financial adviser. “I still remember seeing Bertha with a wrench in one hand and a hammer in the other.”
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In later years, Bertha Shultz adopted the Atascadero Fire Department, often stopping by with sweet treats or to share a cup of coffee with whomever was on shift and befriending many in the department.
She quietly donated more than $30,000 while alive to the Atascadero Fire Department to purchase medical equipment. The department, touched by her generosity, named a fire engine in her honor. That engine, still active today, has stickers on the side that read, “Big Bertha.”
“Mrs. Shultz’s heartfelt and caring donations to our Fire Department have most definitely contributed to the health and safety of our community,” fire Chief Kurt Stone said.
The money will be used to help fund future emergency vehicles and equipment.
The Morro Bay Fire Department will use the donation to replace a 31-year-old ladder truck. The new engine is expected to be in service until 2044. That engine will be named Walter, after Shultz’s father.
The donation to Cuesta College was left specifically for funding the Children’s Center at the North County campus in Paso Robles.
It will be used to help build a permanent facility to house the center, which is currently in a modular building.
“It is about philanthropy and seeing a need in our community,” said Gil Stork, president of Cuesta College. “All along, she was doing wonderful things in the community, but most of us had no clue.”
The gift is the second that Cuesta has announced recently.
Last month, Cuesta said that Charles and Leeta Dovica of Morro Bay bequeathed the college an $8.5 million endowment to provide scholarships to all incoming San Luis Obispo County high school graduates into perpetuity.
Other Shultz donations ranging from $100,000 to $250,000 were given to North County Christian School, Friends of the Morro Bay Library, Woods Humane Society, Rotary Club of Atascadero and the Charles Paddock Zoo.
Shultz, who lived frugally, often helped people she encountered. She had a soft spot for youths.
“If you knew them, you never forgot them,” Maguire said. “My hope is that with these gifts the community will not forget them.”