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The Unlikely Millionaire Philanthropist

Legacy.com / Nick Ehrhardt

The Unlikely Millionaire Philanthropist

Aside from his habit of reading The Wall Street Journal, Vermont resident Ronald Read gave no outward indication he was a millionaire. He wore a denim jacket held together with safety pins, and a local woman once knitted him a winter hat when she noticed how his baseball cap was falling apart.

A frequent diner at the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital coffee shop, Read once had his breakfast paid for by another patron who thought he didn't look as if he could afford it, one employee recalled. Here was a man who lived so frugally that he would park far away from her office so he wouldn't have to feed the meter, noted his attorney, Laurie Rowell.

When Read died in June 2014 at age 92, it was revealed that the former gas station employee and janitor was worth about $8 million. Reading The Wall Street Journal wasn't just an eccentricity; he also had been staying on top of his stock market investments. He stunned the community by distributing $4.8 million to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and $1.2 million to the Brooks Library.