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Philanthropist Adele Bernett leaves large estate to Tampa Bay charities

Mark Parker

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Adele Bernett never married or had children, and she left her $10 million estate to charity. Photos provided.

Although she passed away over three months ago, Adele Bernett’s legacy of kindness and generosity lives on after leaving an almost $10 million estate to support charities throughout Tampa Bay.

Bernett was born on Feb. 5, 1945, in Lake Placid, New York. Her family would later move to Pinellas County, and she graduated from Largo High School in 1962. She continued her education at St. Petersburg College and the University of South Florida, majoring in accounting.

In September of 2021, Bernett was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Simon Canasi, her financial advisor and friend of 35 years, said she did not wish to prolong the inevitable through debilitating treatments. Bernett passed away on Oct. 19, 2021.

“She didn’t want to go through all the chemo and all that and passed away a month later,” he said.

The Adele Bernett Estate Fund recently donated $100,000 to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay.

A month before her death, Bernett told Canasi she was making him the executor of a $10 million estate she amassed through her career in finance with USF and Moffitt Cancer Center, along with some inheritance. Bernett never married or had children.

Canasi said about 10% of the estate went to some cousins and friends, and 90% created the Adele S. Bernett Estate Fund for philanthropic efforts. Before her passing, Bernett left Canasi with a list of charities close to her heart.

“There were about 13 of them, and those have all been honored,” said Canasi. “Then the rest was pretty much left up to me.”

The most recent donation from the Adele S. Bernett Estate Fund was a $100,000 gift to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. Not only was the organization on Bernett’s list of the most important, but Canasi is also a strong believer in its mission.

Canasi and his son are both proud fathers to rescue dogs, and he noted it is a “no-kill” facility unless the dogs are vicious or terminally ill. He called the Humane Society’s work incredible and said he was especially pleased to help further its cause.

Sherry Silk, CEO for Humane Society of Tampa Bay (HSTB), told the Catalyst the organization is “incredibly grateful” for the $100,000 donation. She said the money would go directly towards food, medical care and enrichment experiences for thousands of homeless animals.

“In addition to people donating their time and finances, when animal lovers choose to include helping homeless animals in their will, trust or Estate Fund – it is truly the gift that keeps on giving,” said Silk. “In 2021, HSTB helped save more than 13,000 animals, performed more than 18,000 surgeries and gave away more than 130,000 pounds of free pet food to the community to help those in need take care of their pets.

“We hope that with donations like that of the Adele S. Bernett Estate Fund, we will be able to help even more homeless animals in 2022.”

In the three months since Bernett passed, the estate has supported around 50 charities, and about 70% of the funding remains. Canasi puts a lot of effort into finding the right causes and said the plan is to dole out the money “little by little.” Most of the charities are based in Tampa Bay, and all have a strong presence in the region. In addition to Bernett’s list, Canasi said he asked her cousins and friends if there were any charities “near and dear to them” and made donations in their honor.

Morgan Stanley manages the fund, and Canasi hopes it grows like an endowment for years to come.

“Some of these charities that we’ve already given to, we can continue to give to them down the line,” he added.

Education was important to Bernett, and the estate donated $100,000 to the Krew of Sant’ Yago Education Foundation. That was also a charity that Bernett explicitly named, and Canasi said the grant is for the foundation’s endowment at USF. The Adelle S. Bernett Estate Fund has also supported Hillsborough Community College and Tampa Catholic Highschool.

The estate fund also made donations to the Children’s Cancer Center and the Judeo Christian Health Clinic, and Bernett left $1 million to Tampa Jewish Family Services.

“That’s the biggest one,” said Canasi. “And that’s already been honored.”

Canasi noted that the pandemic caused many philanthropic endeavors to suffer over the last two years, and he called supporting local charities on Bernett’s behalf a great feeling. He added that Bernett had a gentle and loving heart and never spoke ill towards anyone.

“Her and I had a lot of conversations between her diagnosis and her death,” said Canasi. “I promised her that I would put her name up in lights and that the Tampa Bay area would know what an incredible legacy she left behind.

“So, I think she is smiling up there with what we are doing.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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