Why We Give: Tom and Marilyn
Gift of Time Today, Gift of Treasure Tomorrow

Marilyn and Tom Chryst 

Marilyn Chryst and her late husband Tom knew within a year of their retirements that they were not engineered for leisure.

This South St. Louis County couple retired from the Defense Mapping Agency Aerospace Center within months of each other in 1994. They passed one season in retirement and decided that was enough. “We realized we were worker bees,” Marilyn says.

In spring 1995, the Chrysts began volunteering at what was then Shaw Arboretum. Marilyn signed up to lead school groups and teach nature classes. Tom enjoyed woodworking and volunteered for general fix-it, build-it work projects.

Their commitment to Shaw Nature Reserve deepened over their years of volunteering. The Chrysts became members of the Heritage Society in 2001, and plan to give a portion of their estate to Shaw Nature Reserve.

“I believe—we believed—in the work at Shaw Nature Reserve,” Marilyn says. “I love the people there and the work they do. They are creating a place where people can come and learn about the natural world—prairie, wetlands, glades, forest— it’s all there to see and understand. I think that is what [Garden founder] Henry Shaw wanted.”

Marilyn can often be found at Shaw Nature Reserve, leading children on educational walks through the prairie or wetlands. She’s on a first-name basis with the staff of the hardware store in Gray Summit and is known as Aunt Marilyn among children of staff members at the Nature Reserve.

Marilyn is reminded of Tom whenever she sees the bookshelves that he designed and they built together at Shaw Nature Reserve, or a building they helped paint together. Marilyn focuses on these special memories rather than the gift that will take effect in the future.

“[The gift] is written down. I feel good about that, but I don’t think much about it,” she says. “When a kid comes up to me with a caterpillar in his hand, I am focusing on the kid and the caterpillar. I feel good about that moment. I do not think about the fact that this gift will help ensure those moments will happen after my lifetime.”