Honoring the Past by Planning for the Future

Published: July 5, 2023 | By: Drew Morton | Category:
Photo of Bill Severa.

Bill Severa inherited a lot of things, though not necessarily tangible things. He inherited an appreciation of history, a passion for giving back, and a love for the Cedar Rapids community. For those that knew Bill, it was no surprise to learn that he combined those ideals to create an impactful philanthropic legacy when he passed away at age 96 earlier this year.

Like many in Eastern Iowa, Bill came from a family of Czech immigrants. His grandfather emigrated from Czechoslovakia and found success in Cedar Rapids, giving him the means to support others in search of opportunity. He funded the establishment of orphanages in his home country, and after attending a local high school graduation and meeting a Czech valedictorian who couldn’t afford college, he took it upon himself to establish a scholarship.

By the time Bill came of age, he felt a deep sense of connection to Cedar Rapids. Drawing from his grandfather’s example, he generously supported Coe College, the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, and several other organizations that were meaningful to him and the Severa family history. Later in life, he began looking for ways to continue that support after his passing.

“He was a meticulous planner, and it was important to him to leave something behind not only for his family, but also his community,” said Richard, Bill’s son. Richard and his sister will take over as advisors for the donor-advised fund Bill established at the Community Foundation. “He was very specific, and he wanted to be sure everything was carried out in the way he intended.”

Bill established his donor-advised fund with great patience and care, making contributions every quarter for several years until it reached the level he had set as a goal. It is also endowed, which means it will serve as a permanent source of support for nonprofits serving Linn County.

“Bill had a clear vision for his philanthropy, and it has been rewarding to help ensure his estate is serving the community as he intended,” said Laura Booth, Director of Family Philanthropy. “His gifts will provide long-term support for local nonprofits, preserving history and creating opportunity.”

Besides the donor-advised fund, Bill also took out a life-insurance policy and named the Community Foundation as its beneficiary. When Bill passed away in February, the policy established an endowed, designated fund that will make annual distributions to The History Center.

“My father lived in Cedar Rapids almost his whole life, and he felt a deep connection to the community,” Richard said. “Giving back was certainly very important to him, and I hope my sister and I can uphold that tradition.”

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