News 4 has been looking back at the life and legacy of the late Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. this week.
Wilson was best known as the founder of the Buffalo Bills and a philanthropist, and his family and foundation wanted to celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday with a huge investment.
Wilson’s wife, Mary Wilson, was in town for the big announcement, and she and Wilson’s niece, Mary Owen, stopped by News 4 to discuss Ralph Wilson Jr.’s career of philanthropy, love of Buffalo, and his wish to continue giving back to Western New York for years to come.
Wednesday’s announcement revealed a $100 million commitment to revamp LaSalle Park and make it more accessible. New 4’s Erica Brecher asked how they chose that park.
Mary Owen, who is a life trustee of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, said what struck them is how much riverfront space the park occupies, and they’re doing a similar project at a park in Detroit that also has a substantial waterfront.
“The bridge…the challenge of not having access to the community that is cut off by the highway there, and that bridge that’s there…that challenge is actually a huge opportunity for us as we start…implementing the grant,” Owen said.
Mary Wilson was wearing her late husband’s Hall of Fame ring symbolically to make the analogy that a legacy of giving was as important to him as his love of football and the moment he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“When Ralph got the pro football Hall of Fame in 2009, it was the pinnacle of life at that moment, and we all had a ball that weekend at enshrinement,” Owen said. “But this announcement and what we’re doing to celebrate his hundredth, we think, is at an equal level of that moment for him because of the legacy these commitment are going to make in his name.”
Owen and Wilson didn’t want to reveal what commitments are next for Western New York but did they looking for opportunities to fulfill the foundation’s mission of improving the lives of children, young adults and working families as well as building livable communities.