Kitty DeGree

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Dorothey Phillis Hall
"Kitty" DeGree

(Louisiana real estate developer and philanthropist)

Kitty DeGree of LA.jpg

Born July 29, 1922
South Sutton

Merrimack County
New Hampshire, USA

Died October 25, 2012
(aged 90)
West Monroe
Ouachita Parish
Louisiana
Spouse Joseph Alex Napoleon DeGree

Military Service
Service/branch United States Coast Guard
Years of service 1942-1945

Dorothey Phillis Hall DeGree, known as Kitty DeGree (July 29, 1922 – October 25, 2012), was a real estate developer, civic figure, and philanthropist in her adopted city of Monroe, Louisiana, In the he last years of her life, she was the largest single donor to the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Background

Born in rural South Sutton in Merrimack Count in south central New Hampshire, DeGree was one of six children of Richard Elmer and Helen Crampton Hall. With her husband, Joseph Alex Napoleon DeGree, a United States Navy veteran of World War II, DeGree came to Monroe in 1949 so that he could take a position in the paper mill industry. She or her husband had also lived in Vermont in their younger years, locations not available. After numerous years as a housewife, DeGree obtained employment as a secretary and thereafter as a bookkeeper, receptionist, and assistant to a dentist. In the 1970s, she convinced a bank to lend her money in her own name to start a real estate business in which she worked initially nearly round the clock.[1]

Career

With burgeoning financial success, DeGree in 1984 contacted the ULM, then known as Northeast Louisiana University, to donate three hundred apartments through her charitable trust. She was also a donor in the development of the Louisiana Delta Community College in Monroe. For three decades, she was aligned with St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Monroe to improve regional health care.[1]

The ULM School of Nursing and the Breast Health Center at St. Francis Hospital are named in her honor, the former at the personal request of the former university president, Nick Bruno.[2][3] So is the Kitty DeGree Speech and Hearing Center at ULM.[4] There is the Kitty DeGree Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award in Business.[5]

With the civic activist Sandy Rosenthal of New Orleans, DeGree was inducted in 2008 into the Louisiana Center for Women and Government Hall of Fame at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux in Lafourche Parish.[6] DeGree also dedicated much time and money to veterans causes. She pushed for the establishment of the Veterans Administration Clinic and the War Veteran's Home in Monroe. She personally funded the memorial monument commemorating Selman Field at the Monroe Regional Airport..[1] An exhibit at the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum in Monroe is dedicated to DeGree, who herself served in the United States Coast Guard from 1942-1945 during the World War II era, having achieved the rank of Yeoman First Class.[7]

Death and legacy

DeGree died of a lengthy illness at the age of ninety at her home in West Monroe. Her services were held on November 2, 2012, at the ULM Kitty DeGree School of Nursing in the St. Francis Medical Center Auditorium.[1] She is interred at Hasley Cemetery in West Monroe.[8]

Shortly before her passing, The Monroe News-Star published an article, "Kitty DeGree: Community Treasure," in which the philanthropist, who gave $4 million over thirteen years through the Kitty DeGree Foundation,[2] is quoted recalling her New England upbringing:

I grew up with a mother who always believed in helping others. Even though we often did not have enough for our own family, she frequently provided for those she thought had greater need. My success in business has been a blessing to me; arriving at a point in my life with the capacity to share my blessings. Sharing of my time and resources has brought me much self-fulfillment and life satisfaction. It is for me a legacy of love for a community I have come to treasure.[2]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Dorothey Hall "Kitty" DeGree. [The Monroe News Star]] (October 27, 2012). Retrieved on November 30, 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Kitty DeGree: Community 'treasure': Generations will benefit from gifts. The Monroe News-Star (October 9, 2015). Retrieved on November 1, 2015.
  3. Kitty DeGree School of Nursing. catalog.ulm.edu. Retrieved on June 20, 2015.
  4. Kitty DeGree Speech and Hearing Center. University of Louisiana at Monroe. Retrieved on July 7, 2015.
  5. Monroe chamber seeks Kitty DeGree award nominations. Sam Hanna Newspapers.
  6. Four women to be inducted to hall of fame. Nicholls State University (February 28, 2008). Retrieved on August 13, 2012.
  7. Griffin Scott and Amy Sliger (2014). Legendary Locals of Monroe Louisiana. Arcadia Publishing.
  8. Dorothey "Kitty" DeGree. findagrave.com. Retrieved on July 7, 2015.