Ms. Via Cava spent decades as a special needs teacher at the middle school and high school levels in Bergen County, in northern New Jersey. She was known to be resourceful. But her gift left educators asking: How was a teacher able to save so much money?
Richard Jablonski, 63, a friend of Ms. Via Cava’s who knew her for decades before she died, said that her achievement was the result of a lifetime of penny-pinching: She wouldn’t buy the hearing aids she needed, seemed to have few outfits and stopped going on vacations after her husband died.
“Her family went through the Depression, and I think a lot of that had a big influence on her life, being so frugal,” he said.
Mr. Jablonski was the executor for her will, and he said that in addition to setting up the scholarship, she also left money to the Salvation Army and some animal shelters.
“She didn’t have too many people. She was a rough-exterior type of a person. But she could light up a room. She had a killer smile,” he said, adding that she had always seemed devoted to her students.