Cybil-Madeline Park, Compassion House donor dies

April 24, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 6 a.m. April 24, 2010

The philanthropist who donated land for a planned downtown park and housing for the homeless has died.

Julia Pritt, 77, died April 3 at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. The philanthropist amassed a fortune when she and then-husband Frank Pritt launched a software company, Attachmate Corp. Julia Pritt led accounting and human resources for the company.

The retired software executive left a diverse legacy in downtown Issaquah. Her donations laid the foundation for a much-anticipated park and needed transitional housing units.

The city purchased the Beebe property — today known as Cybil-Madeline Park — in August 1995 with a $500,000 donation from Pritt. City officials have worked for more than a decade to assemble parcels near the confluence of Issaquah Creek and the East Fork. Officials refer to the area of planned trails and open space as the “crown jewel” of the municipal park system.

Pritt requested for the parcel to be renamed for her granddaughters, Cybil and Madeline.

City Parks Planner Margaret Macleod said Pritt occasionally called or e-mailed to ask about plans for the park. The city sent requests to architects in January, and the public process to plan Cybil-Madeline Park and the adjacent properties should begin within the next several months.

“I’m saddened, both about her death and that she won’t be able to see the park developed,” Macleod said.

Mayor Ava Frisinger credited the creation of the confluence-area parks “predominantly due to Julia Pritt’s generosity and just her fondness for the community.”

Pritt also worked with Compassion House to secure land downtown for transitional housing. Transitional housing is used to help people move from homelessness into permanent residences.

The nonprofit organization needed land for residences after King County officials said the buildings Compassion House had been using sat on land meant to be retained as open space. City officials had no choice but to order Compassion House to vacate the sites.

The problem put the Rev. Mark Miller and other Compassion House organizers in a bind, until someone suggested Miller contact Washington Women in Need, a nonprofit organization founded by Pritt.

Miller called the philanthropist. She owned land along Southeast Andrews Street downtown. Miller explained the situation, and she mulled the situation for a few moments, and then announced, “I think I’ll give it to you,” Miller recalled.

“It’s not every day someone gives you a half-million dollars worth of property after a five-minute phone conversation,” he added.

Less than a week before Christmas 2004, crews uprooted a historic structure built in 1900 — the Monti House — and relocated the house to the lot Pritt had donated. Compassion House started construction on a transitional-housing duplex on the adjacent lot last year.

Besides Washington Women in Need — a Bellevue nonprofit organization formed to aid low-income women — Pritt also volunteered with Youth Eastside Services, a Bellevue nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children and teenagers with emotional problems.

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