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Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation officials were pleasantly surprised Tuesday to learn about a $500,000 gift from the estate of Dr. Suzanne Knoebel, a renowned cardiologist in Indianapolis who died July 2.
Knoebel had grown up in Fort Wayne and was part of the Buckner family.
The former Buckner Farm is now Buckner Park and is owned by the city. The park consists of over 200 acres north of Bass Road and west of Interstate 69.
Parks Director Al Moll said he had been aware of a pending gift but had no other details.
"We were obviously pleased," he said. "We had no idea it would be this significant."
The money from Knoebel's estate will be put in the Park Foundation's Buckner Family Endowment, and the parks board will be responsible for putting together a plan and deciding how to maximize the endowment, Moll said.
"We may decide to use it as seed money to raise more money for Buckner Park," he said. The parks board is expected to discuss the Knoebel estate's gift Thursday, he said.
Five or six years ago, the parks board approved a three-phase plan for improvements and programs at Buckner Park, Moll said.
They paid for and completed the first phase, but not the last two phases, he said.
Endowment funds will be earmarked for programs and maintenance at the park that could include another pavilion, a nature center, campground sites or possibly maintenance at the parks' water facilities, he said.
Knoebel, who died at the age of 87, was on the faculty at Indiana University.
She was born in 1926 to Dr. Doster and Marie Buckner in Fort Wayne. Her father, uncle and brother were physicians, and her mother was a nurse.
She earned her medical degree in 1960 from the Indiana University School of Medicine, remaining there to serve her internship, residency and fellowship in cardiology.
She also served as a visiting fellow at the National Institutes of Health.
Knoebel was the first female president of the American College of Cardiology, holding that position in 1982-83. In 1983, she was named one of the 100 Most Important Women in America by Ladies' Home Journal, mentioned alongside such luminaries as Sally Ride, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Walters and Julia Child. In 1973, she was one of eight U.S. heart specialists selected to visit China at the invitation of the Chinese government.
Knoebel has received many awards and recognition for her accomplishments during her career and outside of work. She was perhaps most passionate about creative writing and horses.
As a physician and researcher, Knoebel published hundreds of scientific papers, but she was known for other writings as well. According to her obituary, Knoebel published numerous children's books and novels, usually revolving around one or both of her passions: medicine and animals.
"We get surprises like this once in while," Moll said. "People want to give back to the community, particularly the parks, and they trust us. That's why we have funds and a number of endowments."