Bill Farkas outside the Washington Crossing Historic Park Visitor Center (photo by Peter Osborne)
Bill Farkas has left a legacy to Washington Crossing Historic Park…again.
Upon his death last year at the age of 82, Bill left a sizeable donation in his estate to the Friends of Washington Crossing Park. The money will be used to support public education and programming at the park far into the future.
This donation was Bill’s second significant gift to the park. The first came a little less than 10 years when he commissioned author Peter Osborne to write a book documenting the park’s history. Previously, he had hired Osborne to write a book about Washington Crossing State Park in New Jersey.
“Bill had a great love for the New Jersey park,” Osborne says. “He often walked and rode his bike there, but when he asked people about the park, about all they could talk about was the 1776 crossing. They didn’t know anything about the history of the park itself, and that bothered him.”
Once the New Jersey book was complete, Bill turned his attention to the Pennsylvania side of the river.
“Bill became fascinated with the Pennsylvania park but, again, the crossing wasn’t a big interest of his,” Osborne says with a laugh. “In fact, he had never even watched the movie about the crossing in the Visitor Center! I had to take him to see it.”
What Bill wanted was a book about the history of the park itself. Originally conceived as a 300-page book like the New Jersey book, it eventually swelled to 1,200 pages (as did the NJ book). There was just so much to tell.
“Bill and I would meet once a week on Fridays for a check-in and lunch,” Osborne says. “He was so fascinated by the information I was digging up about the park. He was like a sponge, just taking it all in.”
It’s worth noting that Bill wasn’t a publisher or a historian. Far from it. An only child who never married or had children, he spent most of his career as an accountant for U.S. Steel. After retirement, he pursued what interested him.
“Bill believed in using his money for good, and these books are a perfect example,” Osborne says. “He actually created his own publishing company to print and sell the books. He probably put about $125,000 of his own money into them. That’s a major gift and a priceless record of history.”
According to Jennifer Martin, Executive Director of the Friends group, estate gifts like the one left by Bill can have a lasting impact.
“Setting up a donation in your will is a good way to leave a personal legacy and support an organization that has meaning to you,” she says. “These types of gifts can also carry tax advantages to the individual or surviving family.”
In 2017, Bill was honored by the Friends of Washington Crossing Park with the Ann Hawkes Hutton Park Ambassador Award. Osborne describes the award as “one of Bill’s proudest moments.”
“He was a quirky guy,” Osborne says. “That’s the best way to describe him. But I so enjoyed working with him. He never sought out recognition and wasn’t well known by many people. In fact, he wanted my name on the cover of the books because he said nobody would know who Bill Farkas is.”
Rest easy, Bill. Now they know.
No Spot in This Far Land is More Immortalized: A History of Pennsylvania’s Washington Crossing Historic Park is available for purchase in the park’s Visitor Center gift shop.
If you would like to discuss how to leave a bequest to the Friends in your estate, please contact Development Coordinator Danielle Gress at 215-493-4076.