Generous Wasie family's gifts are remembered

When the Wasie Pool closed recently at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, it marked the end of a 41-year era for a facility many relied on for water therapy and rehabilitation.

It also provides a chance to recall one family’s longtime philanthropic focus. The pool and other hospital facilities bearing the name Wasie were supported by the Wasie Family Foundation.

The foundation got its start almost 55 years ago. “Upon realizing his own success and ability to help others, Stanley Wasie started the Wasie Foundation in 1966 to provide a helping hand to those who were less fortunate than he was; yet motivated to succeed. Today, Stan’s initial effort has resulted in our ability to distribute tens of millions of dollars in grants and scholarship funding over more than 50 years,” the foundation’s website stated. Wasie and his wife Marie and their son Donald started the foundation.

According to a Star Tribune article, the foundation’s original purpose was to fund scholarship programs for students of Polish descent. The foundation, which operated for many years out of Minneapolis’ Foshay Tower, funded 10 scholarship programs at one point. It also helped many low-income families and people with physical and cognitive disabilities.

The Wasies had a son Donald, who died in 1973, and a daughter who died after childbirth in 1927. Donald lived with disabilities, so helping others was a focus for the Wasies and their foundation.

Who were Stanley and Marie Wasie? He was the founder and owner of Merchants Motor Freight, and chairman of the board of Murphy Motor Freight until his death in 1974.

The couple met as young people, from Minneapolis families of modest means. He was a Polish immigrant whose last name was originally Wasielewski.

Stanley Wasie attended night school and clerked in a warehouse before launching Merchants Motor Freight in 1927. The company, which started with one truck, at one time had thousands of trucks and trailer units. He sold the company in 1962 but remained active in the trucking industry. He was also active in many civic organizations.

After her husband’s death in 1974, Marie Wasie led the family foundation. She did so until 1991. Her obituary notes that at then time of her death in 1992, she was the largest contributor to Abbott Northwestern Hospital. She was named Minnesota’s Outstanding Philanthropist in 1984, and was honored by the College of St. Catherine (now University of St. Catherine) and College of St. Teresa in Winona. The foundation also helped churches throughout the state, as the Wasies had a deep Catholic faith.

Marie Wasie was an honorary trustee of the Sister Kenny Institute, which like Abbott Northwestern is now part of Allina.

Abbott Northwestern was important to Marie Wasie as the foundation supported the Wasie Pool, Wasie Center and the Wasie Residence. The pool provided therapy. The center once provided accommodations for out-of-town patients and their families, as well as a fitness center, chronic pain program, behavioral health services and offices. It operates today as the Wasie Building. The Wasie Residence provided housing for people with schizophrenia. It closed many years ago.

The History Note is a monthly column produced in cooperation with the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. Past History Notes and other disability history may be found at www.mnddc.org