In the 1990s, the book “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas Stanley and William Danko opened readers’ eyes to the fact that most millionaires do not live in mansions or sail on yachts.
Rather, they are more likely to be your neighbor, living quietly, eschewing ostentation and watching their wealth grow year after year.
Ever since the book was published, the media has regularly regaled us with tales of people who died and shocked everyone around them by leaving millions to charity.
The following secret millionaires all left a big pile of money in hopes of benefitting the greater good.
When Geoffrey Holt died in 2023, those who knew him mourned the loss of a man who lived a simple life as caretaker of a mobile home park in Hinsdale, New Hampshire.
So, many were shocked when Holt left behind $3.8 million to the town of Hinsdale (pictured above), population 4,200.
Holt — who previously worked as a production manager at a grain mill — had squirreled away money for decades. Alison Holt told CBS News that her brother had dyslexia:
“When it came to writing or spelling, he was a lost cause. And my father was a professor. So, I think that Geoff felt like he was disappointing my dad. But maybe socking away all that money was a way to compete.”
For 67 years, legal secretary Sylvia Bloom took the subway to her job in New York City. Shortly after retiring in 2016, Bloom died.
Jane Lockshin — Bloom’s niece — says she had an “‘Oh my God’ moment” when she saw her aunt’s will: Bloom had accumulated more than $9 million.
In the will, Bloom left some money to relatives. However, she wanted the majority of her estate to go to scholarships for students in need. So, $6.24 million has been earmarked for the Henry Street Settlement’s Expanded Horizons College Success Program.
Lockshin told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that her aunt dropped out of college after one year to support herself and her family. Eventually, she earned her degree at night while working full-time. Lockshin says:
“She knew how (A) important it was to get an education and (B) how hard it was to get an education if you didn’t have any money.”
Not many people eat Fritos and drink soda for breakfast. Fewer still leave $4 million to their alma mater.
Robert Morin did both.
Morin worked for almost five decades in the library at the University of New Hampshire (pictured above). When he died a few years ago, he left the millions in his estate to the school where he both earned his degree in 1961 and later spent all of his professional life.
In addition to investing well, Morin bought several life insurance policies, all earmarked for the university he loved. Edward Mullen, Morin’s longtime financial adviser, told the Boston Globe that his client was a smart and unusual man:
“He was somebody you only meet once in a lifetime.”
Ronald Read was unlikely to turn heads in Brattleboro, Vermont. The former gas station attendant and janitor drove a used Toyota Yaris and mostly kept to himself.
So, it was a big shock when he died in 2014 and left $8 million to a local library and hospital.
Read’s lawyer — Laurie Rowell — told Reuters that her client’s appearance was so understated that a well-meaning soul once anonymously paid for his breakfast at a coffee shop after assuming Read was down on his luck. As Rowell told Reuters:
“You’d never know the man was a millionaire. The last time he came here, he parked far away in a spot where there were no meters so he could save the coins.”
Doris Schwartz graduated from Shippensburg University in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Soon after, she took a job teaching French about 60 miles east at West York High School.
Although she found teaching was not a good fit for her — and later became a flight attendant instead so she could see the world — Schwartz clearly still believed in the value of a good education.
When she died at 93 in 2013 — after many years of pursuing her travel dreams — Schwartz left $3.4 million to the York County Community Foundation to establish the Doris E. Schwartz Education Fund.
Nancy Frey — who helped take care of Schwartz during the latter’s senior years — told the York Daily Record that Schwartz lived like a “bag lady” but kept investments and financial accounts all over the world, from Europe and Japan to Singapore:
“She was something, believe me.”
Back in 1935, the U.S. was only halfway through the Great Depression. That year, a secretary named Grace Groner decided to make a $180 purchase of specially issued stock in Abbott Laboratories, where she worked.
That decision paid huge dividends, as the stock split several times over the ensuing decades. Eventually, Groner ended up with an estate of $7 million — all of which went to her alma mater, Lake Forest College in Illinois (pictured above), when she died at age 100 in 2010.
William Marlatt, Groner’s attorney and longtime friend, told the Chicago Tribune.
“She did not have the (material) needs that other people have. She could have lived in any house in Lake Forest but she chose not to.”