Our view: Myra's efforts bring much joy to region
Herald editorial board Looking back through the spectacles of time, it seems the life of John E. Myra was a sad one. Myra moved in 1883 from Wisconsin to what later would become North Dakota. His first job in Dakota Territory was loading coal int...
Herald editorial board
Looking back through the spectacles of time, it seems the life of John E. Myra was a sad one.
Myra moved in 1883 from Wisconsin to what later would become North Dakota. His first job in Dakota Territory was loading coal into train cars at Arvilla. That blue-collar introduction to the region was followed by several entrepreneurial endeavors, including a general store and later a farm machinery and lumber business.
He later began acquiring land and eventually became one of the largest landowners in the Red River Valley.
His professional resume certainly is impressive, but his personal history is marked by sadness. He and his wife had two children, but one died as an infant and the other at age 3. His wife, Emma, died in 1918 and John Myra spent his last 21 years a widower, with no immediate heirs.
But what happened upon his death has created so much joy and so much good in the Red River Valley that it's important we, every so often, note John Myra and his incredible philanthropic efforts.
When Myra died in 1939 at age 82, he left much of his estate to establish the Myra Foundation. According to the foundation website, it was the first private charitable foundation of its kind in North Dakota and was to be administered by a series of three trustees who are tasked with distributing the money for "charitable, character-building and educational purposes."
Oh boy, has it.
Sunday, the Herald published the list of 2017 charitable contributions from the Myra Foundation, ranging from the community (Altru Health Foundation), to the educational (Grand Forks School Renaissance Program), to the young (Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts) and to the old (Valley Memorial Foundation). These are just a few examples. Overall, 49 regional organizations last year received money from the Myra Foundation, which today is overseen by trustees John Botsford, Donna Gillig and Kent Cronquist. In 2017 alone, the foundation awarded more than $350,000.
Again, that's just in 2017. Since its days of giving began in 1941, the Myra Foundation has awarded charitable contributions of more than $9.25 million.
Nowadays, the Myra Foundation owns more than 5,500 acres of farmland in Grand Forks County and leases the land for farming operations, thereby generating more funds for more charitable purposes down the road. It's an ingenious operation.
John Myra, whose professional life was such a success but whose personal life was seemingly marred by such sadness, has done so much for Grand Forks County.
Perhaps he wasn't such a sad man. And perhaps it was his wish to bring happiness to the region.
If we had a wish, it would be that John Myra would be able to see for himself all of the joy and prosperity his donation has brought to the northern Red River Valley.