A (Her) story Lesson

During the 1960s, conventional wisdom still dictated that “war was no place for a woman”.  However, today’s Surprise Millionaire was one of those few brave women who broke that barrier and served their country admirably during turbulent times.

Dolores M. Staudenraus knew she had received a great education upon graduating with her nursing degree from the University of San Francisco in 1954.  The Stockton California native was determined to put her hard earned education to good use whether it was right there in northern California or wherever life might take her.

Where life took Dolores is pretty hard to imagine.  During the Vietnam War, Dolores worked as a battlefield nurse in a combat hospital in the city of Da Nang.  And when I say “battlefield” I am talking about during the siege of Khe Sanh which saw 77 days of some of the bloodiest fighting during the entire war.  Dolores patched up and cared for many young soldiers during those terrible days. She served her country admirably retiring from the U.S. Navy nurse corps with the rank of captain.  dolores-staudenraus

Not one to sit idly by while there was work to do, Dolores began a second career in public health earning a master’s degree in the subject from U.C. Berkley.   Once again Dolores quickly rose through the ranks retiring as a director for the U.S. Public Health Service.  This lady was a true trailblazer!

Oh, and Dolores had a hobby that she fostered along the way as well, real-estate investing!  Never one to sit on the sidelines, Dolores invested over the years in multi-unit commercial properties and saw herself as a hands-on landlord.  Her tenants could not only count on her to be available to them when needed but could also count on her to investigate and resolve any issues herself; sometimes with her two toy poodles in tow!

When Dolores passed away in 2015 at the age of 84, it was her wish to leave her life savings to the University of San Francisco as a tribute to the great education she received there so many years ago.  And quite a tribute it was.  I’m sure the university was pleased when they received the $8 million donation!

Dolores’ fortune will be used to provide scholarships to deserving students in her home town of Stockton and the surrounding area.

Whether it is Catherine the Great, Amelia Earhart or the average self-sacrificing mother, down through the ages there have been those strong and independent women who have made history (her) story.  I guess we can add Dolores Staudenraus to that illustrious list.

The Return of the Hard Rock’n Mamma!

I was thrilled to find an article on my Surprise Millionaire and Greatful Dead devotee, Phyllis A. Stone with a series of pictures!  She is one of the most entertaining people that I have had the privilege of profiling on my blog and one of the most popular among my readers.  Enjoy!

Phyllis Stone Check

The Reading Rainbow

Columbus Ohio resident Carol Snowden lived a quiet life.  A librarian at the Whitehall branch of the Columbus Metropolitan library system, Carol was committed to instilling a love of reading to the children of the underprivileged community she served.

During her 30 year career with the library, she was known for developing pre-school programs for Head Start, leading story time for the children who visited the library and even reading to classes at many of the public schools in the surrounding area.  Carol spent her days, and really her entire life, joyfully instilling the love of reading to eager young minds and leaving a lasting impression as well.  Carol Snowden

When Carol’s life was cut short by cancer in 2008 at the age of 57, everyone assumed that her impact on the children of the community had ended.  This however would not be the case.

A quiet person by nature, Carol had not shared with friends the extent of the estate she planned to leave after her passing.  That’s why when everyone gathered for her memorial service there was a collective gasp at the news that Carol left an estate worth $1 million.  Not even her family had known she was a millionaire!

This hard working librarian who lived in a modest condo and drove a second hand Chevy had learned to save consistently and invest wisely over her lifetime.  Some say this sense of frugality came from being raised by depression era parents.  But I tend to think that Carol was saving with a goal in mind; to make the largest impact toward literacy and the love of reading in her community.

Not only did she leave a substantial sum to the Whitehall library branch, but she also left bequests to several of the elementary school libraries in the area.  She even left money to a co-worker to pursue a degree in library science.  This is a woman who wanted to leave a lasting legacy to her community!

So what are we to learn from the life of Carol Snowden?  Could it possibly be that some of us are fortunate enough to have a “calling”, to know exactly what our life’s work should be?  Carol certainly did and the children of one Columbus Ohio neighborhood will be positively influenced for years to come.

From Gang Life To Millionaire

An inspiring story about a young man who not only turned his life around but became a self-made millionaire as well AND gives back to his community.  This is a different sort of “Surprise Millionaire” story.  I wish him all the best!



Don’t Forget The Basics

With a new year upon us, I thought it would be a great time to reiterate the message of the Surprise Millionaires which is “anyone can accumulate wealth”  !

Remember to follow the basics and you too might become a Surprise Millionaire some day.  Just in case you have forgotten the basics, I have attached a link that outlines the key steps in wealth accumulation.

Millionaire Sign




Where There’s A Will There’s A Way

Another Surprise Millionaire who did not leave a will.  As I have said before, leave a will and make your intentions known.  If not, the state will “look after” your money for you … 

A secretary who quietly saved, invested wisely and amassed a $1.36 million estate.


Mary Petroff