A South Whidbey couple is keeping the memory of their daughter alive by creating a charitable trust to reflect her kindness and generous spirit.
Piper Travis, the daughter of Clinton residents Paulette and Greg Beck, was an active member of the South Whidbey community who offered a lifeline for many by opening her home to those who were down on their luck.
Their daughter, the Becks acknowledged, was not without her own flaws but was incredibly kind towards others, something they are hoping to continue with a trust fund that bears her name.
Just three years ago, Travis became seriously ill during a two-week stay in Snohomish County Jail, where she had been booked because of minor offenses discovered during a traffic stop, according to a previous story that ran in the South Whidbey Record.
Travis was diagnosed with meningitis, sepsis and acute respiratory distress. She passed away in the hospital on Dec. 16, 2017.
Her family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging that staff at the jail neglected her as her health declined, leading to her death.
The family and Snohomish County reached a $3.1 million settlement.
The Becks have chosen to put the money from the lawsuit toward nonprofit organizations that Travis either would have used herself — such as Good Cheer Food Bank — or her friends would have used.
“A lot of her friends didn’t have a house, didn’t have a car, didn’t have food,” Greg Beck said. “She had all of those things.”
“Her door was literally open,” he added.
She quietly helped an untold number of people during her 34 years.
During her memorial service, a man nobody knew stood up and told a story about how Travis provided a place for him to stay while he was recovering from drug addiction.
Because of her generosity, he was able to stay clean.
Paulette Beck said Travis would always stop and buy diapers and baby food for her friends who had young children. Travis lived on Whidbey most of her life and had friends in all corners of the island.
“She was always the kind of person that they turned to and they could always sleep on the couch for a few nights, and she always had food,” Paulette Beck said.
Travis was a patron of the food bank, where a bench carved in her memory by sculptor Pat McVay now sits. The bench is adorned with painted flowers and is a popular spot for other patrons of the food bank to sit while they wait in line.
It’s where the Becks sit on a cold but sunny January afternoon, as they reflect on old pictures of their daughter.
“She liked flowers, she liked color, she was a real girly-girl. This is what we designed and I thought it was just the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen,” Paulette Beck said of the bench, which was carved in 2018.
The Becks chose Good Cheer, Whidbey Island Nourishes, Mother Mentors of Whidbey Island and the House of Hope as beneficiaries of Travis’ trust.
“Being how she was always helping the homeless and helping the hungry, that’s where we focused,” her mother said.
The trust will continue to be maintained, even after the Becks’ passing, by their other daughter and granddaughter. Every year it will contribute donations to South Whidbey nonprofits.
Jonathan Kline, executive director for the Whidbey Homeless Coalition, said the funds will help House of Hope staff to connect with individuals to ensure their needs are being met.
“Rather than take that money for themselves, they decided to put that money into a trust to honor the type of person Piper was,” Kline said of the Becks.
Pam LeLoup, the board president for Whidbey Island Nourishes, said friends of Travis benefitted from the food available in WIN’s free vending machines.
“Such a tragic story, but beautiful that they’ve created a trust with the funds received from the lawsuit and are giving back to help others that might be in a situation like Piper’s,” LeLoup wrote in an email.
“A beautiful legacy for a person who died so young.”
Paulette Beck summed up the giving spirit of her daughter with these words: “Whidbey Island is a great place to give,” she said. “People give here. People do things for other people. Piper saw it, and that’s what she did.”