Axe Wielding Man Leaves Millions!

Now that I have your attention; no, this is not the title of the latest horror flick at the box office. This is the story of a former janitor, gas station attendant and wood-cutter who was not only handy with an axe but handy with picking stocks as well.

Ronald Read was born in Dummerston Vermont in 1921 to a family of modest means. Ronald displayed a hard-working and dedicated attitude from the start. Determined to be the first in his family to graduate high school, Ronald would walk or hitch hike the four miles to and from school each day not letting rain, snow, sleet or hail deter him from his mission. As a result, in 1940 Mr. Read was the first person in his family to graduate high school.

He next received a free tour of Italy, Africa and the South Pacific thanks to Uncle Sam and the Second World War returning to Dummerston just before Christmas 1945.

Not one to let grass grow under him, Mr. Read took a job as an attendant at a local gas station; a position he held for the next 25 years. He followed up with semi-retirement and a janitorial position at a local department store for several more years. Oh, and there was always the woodcutting.

Mr. Read loved to chop wood for his home stove and did so well into his nineties. He would also pick up broken limbs to use for kindling. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Read sold a little bit of that wood for a profit as well! His frugalness was legendary. He would not spend money unless he absolutely had to.Mr. Read

Looking at Mr. Read’s life on the surface, one would assume that he was not a person of great financial wealth. Since this was a man fond of wearing old flannel shirts and a coat held together by safety pins, it comes as no surprise that Mr. Read caught the attention of and benefited from the charity of those around him from time to time. People were known to give him clothing and he was a regular at the free holiday meals provided around the community.

Mr. Read died in June of 2014 at the age of 92 leaving a well-stocked wood pile in his garage and a well-stocked bank account as well. It was reported that upon his death Mr. Read’s stock and property holdings were valued at $8 million, most of which was left to the local library and hospital. Mr. Read enjoyed reading books at the library and was always treated kindly by the staff at the local hospital whenever he went there for treatment. (Am I the only one who finds it funny that Mr. READ left money to the library?)

As it turns out, those who were close to him said that Mr. Read had two great hobbies, investing and woodcutting. It appears that he was great at both. No one in his life knew that he had that kind of money and I believe that is just the way he wanted it.

I believe the thing we have to learn from Mr. Read is dedication. You can’t get an education, accumulate wealth or accomplish much else in life without the dedication to see things through. Mr. Read displayed this wonderful quality and a small town library and hospital will be reaping the benefits for some time to come.

A Surprise Millionaire Profile

Youtuber Tim Schaefer recently profiled a family friend who I would categorize as a Surprise Millionaire.  Tim states:

“A friend is a frugal saver. She and her husband worked hard. They lived frugal. And saved a lot. Since she is retired, she did not touch her investments. She is just spending her pension. She stays out of stores. She has a strict budget. And avoids expensive restaurants.”

They appear to be outside in a park so sound quality leaves a little to be desired but the message is great!

The Neat Little Home At The End Of The Street

The Belleair community in the Tampa Bay area is a relatively recent addition to the Florida landscape built around the remains of railroad magnate Henry B. Plant’s historic Belleview Hotel.  As with the rest of the Florida gulf coast, Belleair is a mecca for retirees from the north looking to live their golden years in the warmth of the sub-tropical sun.  Would you believe that one of these very quiet and assuming retirees is our latest surprise millionaire?

John J. Osborne’s small, immaculately landscaped stucco home at the end of Ricker Road is not what one would envision as the home of a multi-millionaire nor would Mr. Osborne be mistaken for a man of means.  However, just like his tidy little home Mr. Osborne was always neatly dressed and displayed an overall friendliness to his neighbors.  If asked, none of his neighbors could say that they really knew him.  In fact, no one in the Belleair community knew much about the little man who spent quite a bit of time at the city planning office researching properties for sale and haunting the local antique stores looking for mission style furniture. Osborne Home

For those who did have the pleasure of speaking with him, Mr. Osborne was found to be a great conversationalist fond of speaking about finance and his love of antiques.  As a retired bank examiner, Mr. Osborne would have a unique perspective on investing and the accumulation and maintaining of wealth.   The town of Belleair would soon find out just how well Mr. Osborne had put his years of knowledge to good use.

Upon his death in 2012 at the age of 79, the City of Belleair was informed that they were the beneficiaries of Mr. Osborne’s entire estate.  This would include his little home on Ricker Road, his car and, oh yes, $4 million in stocks!   Once the City Fathers picked their jaws up from the floor, the head scratching began.  “Who was this man?  Was this the little man who used to visit the planning office?  Who knew he cared about the town and its residents so much?”

No one knows why he chose to leave his estate to his adopted hometown.  He was known to be a divorcee with a sister back in New York his only living relative.  Perhaps he just wanted to make this world a better place and decided the town of Belleair was as good a place as any to do that.  Stranger things have happened.

Not being ones to look a gift horse in the mouth, the city officials quickly stopped asking “why” and started asking “what” to do with the money.  As it turns out, Mr. Osborne’s $4 million estate was more than the entire operating budget for the city in any given year.  With such a tight budget, I am sure that the city would have many good uses for this wonderful gift.  Hopefully, it will be used in a way that honors Mr. Osborne and his memory.

Once again, we have an example of a life well lived.  Mr. Osborne was not the social sort; but not everyone is a “Chatty Cathy” and not everyone has to be the center of attention.  It appears that Mr. Osborne enjoyed his life and the things that mattered to him.  His solitary pursuits made him happy and very wealthy.  It sounds like a great life to me all in all.

Sisters Doing It For Themselves

They were quite a common sight in their North Eugene Oregon neighborhood. Two eccentric sisters riding their three-wheeled bicycles to the park or the store with their colorful clothes and happy smiles. They lived a quiet and simple life largely unnoticed by others.

Elsa and Marjorie Goodyear (no, not those Goodyears) were born in England and lived and worked in Detroit Michigan. They never married and considered to be “artsy”, made their living working at Detroit’s famous Hudson’s Department store. They worked at many different tasks over the years at Hudson’s from seamstresses to hat makers to sales clerks.

The sisters worked during a time when the majority of American women didn’t work outside the home and the average female worker earned much less than their male counterparts. It was reported that the most money ever earned in a single year by the sisters during their long careers was a combined $25,000.

The sisters retired from Hudson’s in 1972 and moved to Eugene Oregon along with their developmentally disabled brother Norman. The three siblings lived in a small home in a quiet northern neighborhood. Goodyears

The sisters never wanted for much and spent their time caring for their brother, making their own clothes and riding their trademark three wheeled bicycles wherever they wanted to go. It was also during this time that the sisters picked up a curious new hobby; investing in the stock market. It isn’t clear how this interest developed but apparently they had a natural skill for trading and were quite good at it.

It was this success in investing that supported their little family through a very long retirement with Norman passing away in 1989, Marjorie in 2005 at the age of 94 and Elsa in 2010 at the age of 101! But the story doesn’t end there. The sisters not only supported themselves and Norman during their twilight years but were able to leave a little something to help support others in their community as well.

You see, the sisters were not oblivious to the world around them. They loved the local library being avid readers and had a heart for the developmentally disabled and those who were homeless whether two legged or four legged.

It is not certain just how much the sisters earned in total with their stock trading but upon Elsa’s death it was announced that a total of $1.7 million dollars would be split between four local charities. The local library, Goodwill Industries, the local homeless mission and the Humane Society would all benefit from this wonderful gift.

Once again, I believe the lesson to be learned here is that ANYONE can accumulate wealth. Two retired “shop girls” who made an average of $2 dollars and hour over their careers were able to amass a fortune AFTER retirement. By living simply and focusing on others, the Goodyear sisters were not only able to live happy and contented lives but were able to help others in their adopted community as well. This makes me want to run out and buy a second-hand three- wheeled bicycle and get moving! How about you?