Sisters' $8 million bequest to benefit birds, environment

New London — Thanks to the bequest of two sisters who once lived in Old Lyme, up to $700,000 per year will be donated to organizations and projects in eastern Connecticut that benefit bird conservation, animal welfare and preservation of the environment.

The Mary Janvrin and Natalie Janvrin Wiggins Fund for Birds, Other Animals and Nature was announced Thursday by the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, which will administer the fund.

The $8 million donation is the second largest in the history of the foundation. Beginning in 2018, grants of about $700,000 per year will be distributed throughout the foundation’s 42-town area, said Maryam Elahi, president and chief executive officer of the New London-based foundation.

“This enables us to touch all of eastern Connecticut,” she said. “This allows us to have dramatic impact.”

In addition to the $8 million bequest to the Eastern Connecticut foundation, the Janvrin sisters also established an $8 million fund for wildlife and conservation initiatives in Middlesex County. That fund will be administered by the Community Foundation of Middlesex County.

Elahi said the foundation expects to receive the lump sum of the bequest in July, and will invest it with Walden Asset Management, a Massachusetts firm that specializes in environmentally friendly investments.

The largest donation administered by the community foundation was a $10 million bequest from Peter Letz of North Stonington in 2014. Grants from that fund also benefit the environment and animal welfare.

The bequest came to the foundation after the death of Mary Janvrin in September at age 91. She lived in Chester at the time of her death but previously had lived in Old Lyme. Natalie Janvrin Wiggins lived in Old Lyme at the time of her death in 2010. As children, the sisters spent summers in Old Lyme with their family.

Mary Janvrin settled in the 1970s in Old Lyme, where her sister and her husband, Grafton Wiggins, already were living.

Attorney Suzanne Kitchings of Old Lyme worked with them to set up the bequest.

According to Kitchings, Mary Janvrin was a talented painter, sketcher and bird carver, and also adept at working in miniature. The sisters’ father, Edmund R.P. Janvrin, was a physician and well-known amateur naturalist and ornithologist, and their mother, Elizabeth Train Janvrin, was an artist and book illustrator, according to Kitchings.

“I feel privileged to have helped Mary create this important plan, which will carry out the sisters’ wishes to benefit birds, animals and the environment in perpetuity,” Kitchings said.

j.benson@theday.com

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