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The donor: Lynn Ostergaard

The gift: $1.2-million

The causes: Médecins sans frontières and the Humanitarian Coalition

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Lynn Ostergaard led an extraordinary life that included working with a Formula One team, hanging out with actor Paul Newman, writing plays and renovating houses.

Mr. Ostergaard never married and had no children. When he died last year from prostate cancer at the age of 74, he left $1.2-million to two Canadian-based charities; half to Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and half to the Humanitarian Coalition, an Ottawa-based group that works with aid organizations on disaster relief efforts.

His sister, Susan Ostergaard, knew her older brother planned to donate most of his estate to charity, but she was surprised at the final amount and had no idea he’d selected those organizations. While she’d been close to her brother, who lived in Ottawa toward the end of his life, he was reserved and rarely spoke about his long career as a mechanic with Formula One driver Emerson Fittipaldi and the Newman-Haas IndyCar team, which was co-owned by Mr. Newman. He’d also written plays while living for a time in Halifax and bought a few houses in the city that he fixed up and rented.

“He was a very quiet guy,” Ms. Ostergaard recalled from her home in Ottawa. She learned a lot about him after he died from his old friends, racing colleagues and some letters he’d kept. “It’s probably how most people feel when they lose somebody in their family; they wished they’d asked them more questions,” she said. "It’s made me very proud of him.”

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