01/02/2013 02:39 pm ET Updated Jan 03, 2013

Mary McConnell Bailey, Modest New York Widow, Quietly Leaves $20 Million To Public Library, Central Park

When Mary McConnell Bailey died last year, the 88-year-old widow didn’t even have an obituary. But now her name is in the paper for a different reason.

Bailey left $20 million to two New York City institutions: the New York Public Library and Central Park, the New York Post reports.

“No one would have known her wealth,” Paul M. Frank, a lawyer and friend who is one of the trustees of Ms. Bailey’s estate told the New York Times, “Picture an old New Englander; that is what she was, in that style.”

Bailey had no children, lived in a 1950s decorated apartment in the East Side and never remarried after her husband of two years died in World War II, according to the Post.

No one saw the sizeable donation coming -- Bailey is remembered by friends as being considerably modest.

“When we went to lunch, it was usually dutch. She was very secretive about it all,” Lizanne Stoll, her best friend and neighbor told the Post. Bailey didn’t wear jewelry and her go-to outfit was a tracksuit. “Mary didn’t give a damn. It was quixotic. Those were not her priorities,” Stoll told the Post.

But it turns out the shy widow was an heiress. Her inheritance came from her family’s involvement with the Roaring Spring Blank Book Company, the maker of the popular black and white marble-cover notebooks, the Times reports.

“I think once she had that money set aside, she didn’t give a damn [about it]. She didn’t feel it was hers at all,” Stoll told the Post.

The New York Public Library plans on splitting its $10 million donation between programming materials for its branch libraries and research libraries, Amy Geduldig, a spokeswoman for New York Public Library told the Times.

The Central Park Conservancy has not disclosed how it will spend the sizeable donation, but plans to host an event in Bailey’s honor in the spring, according to the Times.

Bailey’s gift to the Central Park Conservancy is one of many in the past year. Last October, hedge fund billionaire, John Paulson, donated $100 million to the park -- the largest park donation ever in U.S. history, Bloomberg reports.



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