Visitors to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium will benefit from the generous gift of the late Frances J. Coultrap of Upper Arlington.

Visitors to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium will benefit from the generous gift of the late Frances J. Coultrap of Upper Arlington.

Upon her death last August, the 94-year-old Coultrap bequeathed $5-million to the zoo, the largest gift in the organization's history.

"We've had million-dollar gifts before. We've never had one over $5-million," said Jeff Swanagan, the zoo's executive director.

Coultrap spent most of her childhood in Grandview Heights, graduated in 1935 from Ohio Wesleyan University with an English degree and became the secretary for Ohio State University provost Francis Davis after earning a master's degree at Ohio State.

When Davis became provost at the University of Iowa, Coultrap moved to Iowa and worked as his executive secretary until she retired in 1972, when she returned to live in her parents' Upper Arlington home.

Coultrap's friends at First Community Church, where she was a member for more than 40 years and a weekly volunteer, remember her as a fun-loving and lovable character.

"She was a fascinating individual and a unique person in our community of faith," said the Rev. Jim Long, First Community's pastor. "I thought she was well thought-of when they had the celebration for her at our church (when she died). There were people from all walks of life, including Ohio Wesleyan. She was just a great person and a unique individual."

Julie Osborn, director of Older Persons Ministry at First Community Church, said Coultrap was a lifelong animal lover.

"When you saw Frances, you saw her dog. She loved her dogs. It was usually a dachshund," Osborn said. "She was known to say that there was one thing in her refrigerator: dog food. She ate breakfast at the Chef-O-Nette (Restaurant). She ate all her meals out, and that's why in her refrigerator there was only dog food."

In 2001, at age 88, Coultrap became a founding member of the Colo Club, a group whose members donated $1,000 or more to the zoo.

"She loved the zoo, loved to come up here," Swanagan said.

Swanagan said he was overwhelmed when he found out about Coultrap's gift.

"When the attorney met with me, I literally cried," he said. "Several of our staff, like (development director) Deborah Varner knew her and would pick her up at her house. Jack (Hanna) had lunch with her once. We love people who love animals."

Coultrap's gift will be added to the zoo's Jack Hanna Legacy Society endowment, which is used for a variety of purposes, including education programs and acquiring new animals.

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