In 1977, the Francis L. Abreu Charitable Trust in Atlanta was established under the will of May Patterson Abreu to honor her husband, Francis, who died in 1969. In an effort to acknowledge May, who died in November of 1976, her successors added her name to the foundation title in 2002. Prior to the creation of this trust, a long-standing tradition of philanthropy and a legacy of supporting the arts in Georgia and Florida had begun with this southern family.
Francis L. Abreu [1896-1969]
Born in 1896 to Diego and Marie Jova Abreu, the owners of a Cuban sugar plantation, Francis became a renowned architect known in Florida and Georgia for his distinctive designs that blend Spanish and Mediterranean influences.
Francis divided his time during his youth between his boyhood homes in upstate New York and Cuba. He attended Cornell University, where he ran on the track team, and after returning from service in the US Navy during World War I, earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture. After graduation, at the beginning of the city’s real estate boom, Francis moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida where his parents had relocated. The following five years were among the busiest in his career, as he began designing numerous homes for the city’s elite. His first clients were his parent’s friends who were in need of winter homes. His architectural designs featured barrel tile roofs, twisted columns, arched walk-ways, antique lanterns, iron gates and heavy dark wooden doors. Today, however, he is best known for his commercial and public buildings.
May Patterson Abreu [1891-1976]
In the 1920s, May’s father found himself in financial ruin. May accepted a job at Porter and Porter, one of Atlanta’s premier interior design firms, to help her father erase his debt. During this time, she was being courted by James J. Goodrum, an Atlanta area investment banker at Trust Company of Georgia. James managed the initial public offering of shares of the Coca-Cola, Co. through the corporate finance department of the bank, for the group of investors led by the Woodruff family and their friends, who had purchased the company from the Candler family. Although James had made wise financial decisions and was among the city’s wealthy citizens, May refused his marriage proposals until she had completely paid off her father’s debt. In 1926, when her father was debt-free, May married James. Sadly, James died after only two years of marriage.
May and Francis
May and Francis met on Sea Island and married on 14 April, 1938. During their marriage, they were active members of Atlanta society during the 1940s and 1950s and were staunch patrons of the arts. May enjoyed the opera, arts and the symphony, while Francis preferred golfing, hunting and fishing. While Francis may not have shared May’s love for cultural events, he did, however, attend events to be social. May and Francis lived in the Goodrum House, on West Paces Ferry Road, designed by Philip Trammell Shutze, currently owned by the Watson-Brown Foundation.
In addition to being an active participant and supporter of charities in Atlanta, May also supported local Atlanta citizens in need. After the Depression, May provided several people with financial assistance to help them get back on their feet. When walking down Peachtree Street in Atlanta one afternoon, May noticed one of the recipients look at her and cross the street to avoid a conversation about repayment. That Christmas, she sent “Paid in Full” messages in her Christmas cards to all who had received support from her with the simple message, “Merry Christmas.”
The May P. & Francis L. Abreu Charitable Trust carries on the tradition of giving and continues to benefit the Atlanta area arts and cultural programs, education, health associations, human services, children and youth services.
The May P. & Francis L. Abreu Charitable Trust was chaired by May & Francis’s son, Peter, until his death in August, 2013. The tradition of service continues with Peter’s children, Mike, Claire and Katherine, serving as board members, with Mike serving as the Foundation’s Executive Director. Attorney Marshall Sanders, as well as Dan Bryan, Greg Gerhard and Charles Menser also serve as board members.