Honoring Family Memories With a Legacy Gift

Mary Ann Rao Lancaster's brother fishing from the pier

Mary Ann Rao Lancaster’s brother fishing from the pier at Martin Dies Jr. State Park

Mary Ann Rao Lancaster has spent her entire life caring about the wild things and wild places of Texas. Her rural upbringing helped inspire her conservation ethic, which is why she has made a decision to support Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF) with a legacy gift.

“Since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to be sure our land and wildlife would be safe till the end of time,” she said. “These feelings have always been in my heart. Growing up poor helped me understand what it means to conserve what you have.”

Lancaster has a lifetime of special memories in Texas State Parks. Her brother taught her how to fish at Martin Dies Jr. State Park near their childhood home. As a young adult she fished and camped there often. Tragically, her brother ended up in a wheelchair due to diabetes in the early 1980s. At the time, their favorite fishing pier was not accessible for the disabled. Lancaster contacted the park’s ranger station and sent many letters to Texas State Park headquarters in Austin. A few years later, the necessary improvements were made to the ramp and they were able to fish together again.

“We fished together there often, enjoying our favorite pier where it seemed the fish were always biting,” she reminisced. “I returned to that pier many more times after his death and it brought back such good memories of our time together.”

Another favorite memory was made in Huntsville State Park in the 1990s. During a camping trip there, Lancaster was fishing from the pier when some children joined her who had never fished before. She helped them craft homemade fishing poles from some fallen tree branches, rigging them up with fishing line, hooks, and worms.

“Those kids were catching perch faster than I could re-bait their lines,” she recalled. “Needless to say, my fishing day was over! I spent the rest of the afternoon schooling the kids on how to remove perch and how to bait a hook. The kids loved it and we spent several happy hours. Before they went back to their campsite, one little fellow came up and hugged my neck and told me he would never forget the day he learned to fish. That moment will be in my heart forever.”

Throughout her life, Lancaster has been involved with dozens of conservation organizations. From Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy, to the World Wildlife Fund, Lancaster has always put her money where her heart is.

“My life was not blessed with children of my own, so I have always thought that protecting wildlife and the land is the legacy I want to leave,” she said.

Widowed in 2011 and now in her late 70s, Lancaster wanted to be sure that her affairs were in order and researched charities on Charity Navigator as she updated her estate plan. After learning more, she made the decision to name TPWF as a beneficiary of a bank account, known as a payable upon death designation. This is a simple and straightforward way to support TPWF’s work.

“If you are a Texan and truly love this great state and want to keep Texas wild and beautiful, consider leaving a planned gift to TPWF,” advises Lancaster. “Just give them a call like I did. They are so nice and willing to make sure your future donations go to something that is important to you. So just do it! It will give you a warm feeling in your heart.”

Learn more about how to leave a wild legacy for Texas.