Francis Florio lived modestly and quietly, although he owned a number of real estate properties in Brooklyn and Queens. Grace Currlin and her husband helped him manage the buildings for many years. One year, Mr. Florio became so ill that he was unable to work and the Currlins took over completely. And after his wife died in 1959, he spent nearly every weekend at the Currlins’ house on Long Island. Toward the end of her life, Grace Currlin was in and out of the hospital with a blood disease until she died in 1970. One of the first private grants for AIDS research was made by The Trust in 1983 through the generosity of one man—who died before the world knew about this devastating virus.
Mr. Florio first contacted The Trust in 1967. He was 77, had no children, and wanted to know if we could help him identify charitable beneficiaries to receive the bulk of his estate. He had not thought about starting a fund, but was delighted to learn that it was an alternative.
In a letter to us, he said he wanted to “hasten the conquest of human misery and physical suffering.” And when he wrote his will, he asked that we use the money for research in the field of blood disease.
Throughout the ’90s, we used the fund to help train the next generation of scientists by supporting young researchers. They studied a variety of blood diseases, from AIDS to polycythemia vera to myeloma to hypermutation. But as more federal money became available to researchers, we made grants that would give a more direct and immediate benefit to poor New Yorkers. Large grants recently have been made to support clinical trials for sickle cell and HIV/AIDS treatments.
In his will, Mr. Florio also asked The Trust to broaden the purpose of his fund after 40 years. In 2011, we will begin to use the Francis Florio Fund to support medical research and a variety of other pressing community needs.