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The Lanier Family - generations of service & philanthropy

First row – Becky and Dede Streetman, Second row – Pete Lanier, Anne Lanier Streetman, Robin Lanier Stewart, Dede Lanier, Third row – Pete Lanier III, Callie and Cal Streetman, Blan and Tip Stewart, Frederick Lanier

Milton H. (Pete) Lanier, Jr.’s gift to Huntsville Hospital Foundation’s Robin Lanier Stewart Fund is a great illustration of a financially savvy charitable donation from a retirement account.

Pete Lanier had a self-directed IRA.  He realized a simple fact about IRAs – when it comes to taking money out of them, they can be your most taxed asset.  They are wonderful vehicles that help provide for you when you are living should you need them.  But if you want to be charitable, especially after you pass away, rather than giving from your checking account or other assets, it is usually much more tax-savvy to give from your IRA. 

That was especially true in Pete Lanier’s day.  He passed away in 2001 when estates over $675,000 were subject to estate tax (today estates valued at over $12.92M for an individual or double that for a couple are subject to estate tax.)  In addition, money coming from an IRA was, and is today, taxed as ordinary income. 

According to his son Frederick, Pete had about $250,000 in his IRA.  Had the money from his IRA been withdrawn for any purpose other than a charitable one, because of the size of his estate (over $675,000), it would have been taxed twice - estate tax and ordinary income tax, and the family would have been left with around $65,000.

Instead, Pete wanted his IRA to be used for charity.  He designated $100,000 to the YMCA (Frederick was the Chairman of the YMCA Board of Directors).  The remaining funds were divided into thirds, with the University of Alabama Law School Foundation, the Church of the Nativity, and the Huntsville Hospital Foundation’s Robin Lanier Stewart Fund getting one-third each.  That way, the entire amount went to charity. There were no taxes to pay.

Robin Lanier Stewart Fund

There were great tragedies in Pete’s life.  One was the death of his second daughter Robin in March of 1993. 

Robin had worked at the Comprehensive Cancer Institute (now Clearview Cancer Institute).  In her honor, six oncologists established the Robin Lanier Stewart Fund. The fund was later endowed by Robin’s brother Frederick and Robin’s parents, Dede and Pete Lanier.  Funds from Pete’s aforementioned IRA were added to the fund at his passing. 

This fund is used to pay for medications for patients going through cancer treatment who would not otherwise be able to afford them.  At this time, an estimated $200,000 in prescriptions has been paid for through this fund.

Frederick commented, “Through the years, I have had employees’ families benefit from the fund, and this has given me firsthand knowledge of the impact the fund has on the lives of patients and their families. This is a great comfort to my sister Anne and me.  Robin’s Fund is one of the largest endowed named funds at the Foundation. Many cancer survivors regularly give back to the fund, which is one reason it has been so successful. I thank all those who donate.”

You too can provide medication for Cancer patients in our community through the Robin Lanier Stewart Fund by clicking here or calling (256) 265-8077.

Frederick with portrait of his sister Robin

Carrying on the tradition

In 2021, Anne Lanier and her brother Frederick carried on the family tradition, reaching out in their grief to help others. 

Anne’s daughter, Becky, died in 2004 at the age of 29 due to medical complications from anorexia. Since that time, Anne has made it her life mission to equip other families with the resources they need to help a loved one with an eating disorder. She and the Lanier Family Foundation have done that at Huntsville Hospital with the creation of the Becky Streetman Center for the Treatment of Eating Disorders through Nutrition Intervention.

The Becky Streetman Center provides nutrition evaluation, counseling, and hands-on coaching to support children, teens, and adults struggling with eating disorders. The program helps both patients and their families gain a better understanding of the eating disorder and develop a plan to achieve and maintain healthy eating habits. Registered Dietitians Linda Steakley and Anna Key meet with patients in a private, comfortable setting at the Huntsville Hospital Wellness Center on Governor's Drive.

“Our goal is to not only help patients to a healthy weight, but to help them understand how their eating disorder causes nutrition and physical issues,” said Linda Steakley, MS RDN LD. “We work together to practice meal planning and preparation, establish regular eating patterns, and provide support for both the patients and their families."

“Family education is crucial. Becky would go through treatment and be better but once she was home, she hadn’t changed, her sisters hadn’t changed, her friends hadn’t changed,” said Lanier. “Simply telling her she looked great would send her right back into starvation mode.”

The goal of the Becky Streetman Center is to equip a patient’s entire family with the education and resources they need to help their loved one overcome their eating disorder. Only then can they take productive steps toward healing and recovery.”

Contact the Becky Streetman Center at (256) 265-7100 if you or someone you know might need help with an Eating Disorder.  Or support this work with a donation that will provide patient scholarships to those who are unable to afford it. Simply click here or call (256) 265-8077.

Anne Lanier

Frederick Lanier

Frederick Lanier, Senior Vice President of Marsh & McLennan Agency, is a 5th generation native of Madison County. He and his wife have given generously financially and of their time to their church and to many nonprofits in the community.  Frederick has served as a Foundation Trustee and Treasurer, Huntsville Classic Chairman, and BMW Brunch Chairman for the Huntsville Hospital Foundation.  “Huntsville Hospital is vitally important to everyone.  We all have the possibility of needing the hospital’s services. Working with the Foundation is one of the best ways to support and give back to the Huntsville community”, he believes.

Frederick genuinely enjoys recounting his family’s history. He has a great appreciation for the values his father passed on to him.  In 2019, in an article for a Huntsville Hospital Foundation, Frederick Lanier reflected, " My father ingrained in our family the importance of giving back to our community. He understood the importance of having a servant’s attitude.”

Frederick also has a great appreciation for his first experience with a hospital.  He is the last of Dede and Pete Lanier’s four children.  Pete was a friend of the family’s physician, the late Dr. John H. Lary, Sr.  This friendship included regular poker games. When Dede was ready to go to the hospital to deliver Frederick, she called Pete at the Lary house where they were playing poker.  She asked him to come and get her immediately.  Pete told her he would be right there and would tell Dr. Lary to head to the hospital.  But Dr. Lary reminded Pete that their first three children had taken quite a while to make their entrance into this world and that he should sit back down and finish their poker hand.  Pete did just that.  And that is why Frederick was born in the elevator at Fifth Avenue Hospital, a hospital on Governors Drive, no longer standing, that only had two floors.  And why, according to Frederick, Dede “fired” Dr. Lary as her physician. But Pete kept him as his friend and poker playing buddy.

Fifth Avenue Hospital

Family history

The Laniers migrated here from Virginia in 1820 for the same reason many families did – they were looking for good farmland.   They settled in the Triana area.

Milton H. Lanier, Sr., was born in 1878.  He was the youngest of ten children.  He was admitted to the bar in 1899.  He served as a city commissioner from 1913 – 1916.  He was the attorney for the City of Huntsville for twenty years, serving Mayors Henry B. Chase, Fraser L. Adams, and A. W. McAllister.  In 1935, he formed the firm of Lanier, Price and Shaver with attorneys Walter Price and Charles Shaver. 

Milton H. (Pete) Lanier, Jr., was born on February 17, 1914. He attended public school in Huntsville and graduated from an Episcopal high school in Virginia. 

Milton H. Lanier, Sr.

He attended the University of Alabama, receiving his undergraduate degree in 1936 and his law degree in 1938.  He joined his father’s firm but his career was quickly interrupted by World War II.  He joined the U. S. Naval Reserve and volunteered for overseas service.  He was stationed in North Africa and took part in the invasion of Sicily.  He then served as port director in Palermo, Sicily, then in Marseille, France, and finally, in Miami, Florida, where he met and married his wife Dede.

Dede and Pete Lanier

Upon returning to Huntsville, Pete resumed the practice of law in his father’s firm and became a partner in the firm of Lanier, Price, Shaver, and Lanier (after several iterations, the firm is now known as Lanier Ford).  He practiced law for over 60 years.   He served as president of the Huntsville-Madison County Bar Association and president of the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce in 1955.  He held directorships or offices in a number of Huntsville corporations. He was appointed to the Huntsville City Board of Education by Mayor Joe Davis.  He served as a chairman of the Huntsville-Madison County Community Chest (now United Way) and as a member of the board of directors of State National Bank and Central Bank.  At his church, the Episcopal Church of the Nativity, he served a member of the vestry and senior warden.  He joined the Huntsville Rotary Club in 1948 and served a term as vice-president.  He was a Russell Barber Fellow and a Paul Harris Fellow. 

During the 1950s and 1960s when Huntsville was growing exponentially, he made things happen.  He helped form the Huntsville Industrial Associates, Inc., which converted the closed Lincoln Mill into an industrial complex.  He helped lure Chrysler Corporation to Huntsville and played a significant role in the development of Brown Engineering Company, a struggling machinery company.   Lanier was general counsel for Milton Cummings, who bought Brown Engineering and prevented the company from disbanding.  Brown Engineering was the first business to move into the Huntsville Research Park. The engineering firm, headed by Cummings and Joseph C. Moquin, purchased a 100-acre lot in 1962 at the end of the dirt road that developed into what is known today as Sparkman Drive. As a founding business in Huntsville Research Park, Brown Engineering established their research laboratories and flourished, becoming a flagship company in NASA’s Apollo program and the Army’s missile efforts at Redstone Arsenal. In 1967, Teledyne Incorporated of Los Angeles bought the engineering firm. The company, known today as Teledyne Brown Engineering still remains an anchor tenant in the Park.

Pete Lanier

Frederick stated, “My father was one of the early visionary leaders.  He always told me that Huntsville has everything – available land, good utilities with TVA, a good waterway with the Tennessee River.  He told me everything was in place for Huntsville to have one of the best military bases in the country.  Look at the base realignments - that was my father’s vision.”

Pete was a member of the Byrd Spring Rod and Gun Club, the oldest incorporated hunting club in Alabama, from the time of its founding in 1922 until his death.  Byrd Springs has been identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the most intact and pristine wetland in the State of Alabama, and one of the only Tupelo Gum wetlands in the nation.

He was active in the politics of the state.  Recognized as a leading Republican for all of his adult life, he served a term as vice chairman of the Alabama Republican Executive Committee and as a delegate to several national Republican conventions.  In 1956, when Eisenhower was nominated for the second time, and in 1960 when Nixon was nominated, he served on the Republican Platform Committee. 

His hobbies, aside from poker, were hunting, tennis, and golf.  He won the over-80 division of the state senior golf championship at the age of 85.

Pete Lanier died on October 17, 2001, at the age of 87.  He carried on his father’s legacy of service and philanthropy as Frederick and Anne Lanier do today.  Our hospital and our community benefit from their commitment, intelligence, energy, and resources.