When Vermont resident Ronald Read died at age 92, he left millions of dollars to the local library and hospital, reports his hometown newspaper, the Brattleboro Reformer.
Read, who according to Reuters worked as a gas station attendant and as a janitor at a JCPenney, is remembered by those who knew him as a "frugal and extremely private person."
The Reformer reports that "his estate included a 2007 Toyota Yaris valued at $5,000, but his closest friends and family members did not know he had even a tiny sliver of the fortune he left behind."
Between his property and his investments, that fortune amounted to about $8 million.
In an interview with CNBC, Read's attorney Laurie Rowell explains that most of his investments — including AT&T, Bank of America, CVS, Deere, GE, and General Motors — were found in his safe deposit box after his death.
"He only invested in what he knew and what paid dividends," Rowell said. "That was important to him."
Those holdings enabled him to bequeath $1.2 million to the local Brooks Memorial Library and $4.8 million to the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital — the largest donations either institution had received since the library's founding in 1886.
Read's stepson remembers him to the Reformer as a daily reader of the Wall Street Journal and a man who lived a financially conservative lifestyle. "I was tremendously surprised," Brown told the paper. "He was a hard worker, but I don't think anybody had an idea that he was a multi-millionaire."
In fact, one local resident quoted in the Reformer says she once knitted him a hat (that she never saw him wear) and "bought some old fence wiring from him once because I thought he could use the money." She adds: "People were stunned that he had that much money."
"He had two lifelong hobbies: Investing and cutting wood," Rowell told the Reformer. "The generous bequests to the Brooks Library and Brattleboro Memorial Hospital attest to his skills at investing. The well-stocked woodpile in his garage attests to his love of cutting wood."
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