If anyone knows the value of a dollar—and what it means to make a gift of one's hard—earned money—it is someone who has gone through the Great Depression. Lois and Francis Hamersky qualify on both counts. The Imperial Beach residents—who are generous donors to UC San Diego—endured the most tumultuous economic period in American history.
The Hamerskys' memories of growing up poor in rural Missouri in the 1930s are still vivid. Francis was one of 10 children who all slept in the same bedroom after his parents were forced to move to a small house in town after losing their farm.
"There were many times my mom and dad wouldn't eat until the kids got through eating. That's how little food we had," says Francis. "I remember going door to door with my little wagon selling vegetables we had grown. Sometimes I only made a nickel, but that was an important nickel."
Lois' life as one of three children was only a little better. Her dad was lucky to find warehouse and delivery work, but still had to hunt and fish and plant a huge garden to put food on the table.
Francis joined the Navy just before the war ended. When he was on leave in 1950 he met Lois, who was working at a diner, and they were married later that year. He retired from the Navy in 1966 and had a second career in law enforcement, working as a fingerprint and evidence technician for the San Diego and Coronado police departments and the Alaska State Troopers.
The couple has been so careful with their money that they were able and eager to begin donating through charitable gift annuities when they learned about the outstanding health research and clinical care at UC San Diego and the Shiley Eye Center.
"I have diabetes and Francis has glaucoma in one eye, so we really liked the idea of giving money that might someday help lead to cures for these diseases and hopefully keep our grandchildren and great-grandchildren from getting them," Lois says. "We also love our UC San Diego physicians because they not only give us great medical care, they take the time to listen to us and answer our questions."
Francis says he hopes others will become involved with the university.
"You don't have to be wealthy to make a difference, because we certainly aren't. We're just common folks who saved their money and who are happy we can help a great university while taking advantage of some outstanding tax breaks that UC San Diego Gift Planning provides us."