Some 80 of the Modinis' friends culled from their aged phonebook were invited to come and select a memento. An estate sale of antiques netted funds to support the preserve, including $25,000 in fine jewelry.

Among the treasure in their stuffed basement, hidden behind a freezer, was a painting of a ram by 19th-century wildlife painter Albert Bierstadt that sold at auction in New York last month for $38,000. Those funds will go into an endowment with the rest of the $3 million estate, to keep the land they loved forever wild.

After the Modinis died, Johnston said many of her friends told her how sad it was. Johnston said the greatest lesson is that an end-of-life plan can make the final years and hours of life not just easier, but good.

"I was there with them right up until the end," she said. "And we had fun. Every day we had some fun."

You can reach Staff Writer Meg McConahey at or 521-5204.