Nancy Lematta, Former Chair of Columbia Helicopters, Gives Providence $2M for COVID Fight

The former board chair of Aurora-based Columbia Helicopters has donated $2 million to the Providence health system’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and she wants others to follow her lead.

In a video posted by the Providence Portland Medical Foundation yesterday, Nancy Lematta says she has been wondering what she can do to assist in the state, nation and world’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I kept thinking, ‘What could I do to help?” she says. “Could I make masks? Well, I probably couldn’t make them the way I’m supposed to. What could I do? And I thought, I can give money. I’m very fortunate that I have the ability to give money.”

Lematta, who is also a longtime board member for Providence, said she hoped others would join her in donating to the fund dedicated to the COVID-19 response, which will go toward needed hospital supplies and equipment and fund research of the disease at the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute.

“I would hope that other people would want to contribute something to it, and if we could meet or exceed this amount from other people, that would be wonderful,” Lematta said. “I’m happy to be able to do that, and hope it can make a difference.”

Lematta and her late husband, Wes Lematta, gave $1 million for Providence’s cancer research in 2003, but the hospital said she usually donates without publicity. This time, though, she wants to inspire others to give if they are able.

Wes Lematta founded Columbia Helicopters, based at the Aurora State Airport, in 1957, and is now a global leader in heavy-lift helicopter operations and manufacture, maintenance, repair and overhaul services. Its home airfield at the Aurora airport is named after him. Nancy Lematta was its board chair until she retired in 2014.

“Lematta challenges the community to join her by giving generously to slow the spread of the virus and care for the most vulnerable Oregonians throughout the state,” the hospital said in its announcement of the gift.

Donations can be made at The hospital says every gift to combat COVID-19 “will support research and help keep caregivers, patients and their families safe.”

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