A Sobering Post

I strive to keep things upbeat here at The Surprise Millionaires however I recently discovered some information I would like to share.  By chance I viewed two separate crime programs profiling gentleman that we would categorize as “Surprise Millionaires”.  These gentleman unfortunately met with foul play specifically because of their wealth.

This underscores the reasoning why our Surprise Millionaires very wisely keep their wealth a secret.  It appears that the wrong people were trusted or were somehow made aware of the victim’s wealth in these situations which resulted in tragedy.  If you have a “Surprise Millionaire” in your life please encourage them to be very careful about who they share this information with.  I will post links to news stories below regarding each gentleman.

William McGrath:


Bob Harrod:


Mr. Harrod is still missing.  Anyone with information may submit a tip anonymously  to the address below:


Thank you

Growing Your Portfolio With TLC

Little Osgood Indiana is really nothing to write home about.  Like many mid-western towns, it has seen better days.  With only 1,600 or so residents and no industry to speak of, the future of the town as it approached the twenty-first century was bleak.

However, unknown to almost everyone, Osgood had a couple of guardian angels who were determined that their hometown would not only survive, but thrive well into the twenty-first century.  Enter Gilmore and Golda Reynolds, a quiet and unassuming Osgood couple with a big secret.

Living in a well maintained but small stucco home, the Reynoldses had been secretly helping Osgood for quite some time from contributing to the volunteer fire department to paying for the new town hall.  In fact, the couple had anonymously given upwards of $600,000 to the town over the years.  But this would be nothing compared to what they would leave upon their passing.

After Gilmore’s death in 1990 and later Golda in 1998 the good folks of Osgood found that they were heirs to the little couples’ $23 million estate!  No, I did not mistype; the Reynoldses estate was worth $23 million when it was disbursed in 1999.

I’m sure just like me many of you are asking yourself, how?  How could a small-town mid-western couple accumulate this type of wealth?  Well, that is a very interesting story.

You see the Reynoldses, married for over 65 years, loved investing.  Some would even say they were obsessed with it.  It turns out something that started as a retirement hobby became an all-day everyday affair.  The couple would spend their entire day researching and investing in stocks.  Golda, a retired teacher, gave her stocks the same type of attention she gave her former students watching them grow on a daily basis.  Gilmore, somewhat of a long range planner, plotted the overall course of their investment portfolio always looking five to ten years in to the future.   It was this combination of tender loving care and long range planning that helped them turn the proceeds from selling Gilmore’s little Chevy dealership back in 1964 into a full-fledged fortune!

Osgood’s plans for new sewers, sidewalks and other infra-structure projects may not be the most extravagant use for their funds, but it does accomplish just what Gilmore and Golda wanted which was the preservation and continued sustainability of their town. Gilmore and Golda Reynolds

I don’t want to leave this couple’s story without emphasizing that Gilmore and Golda LOVED investing.  It was something that they did together that brought them endless hours of enjoyment and contentment.  Never having children of their own, the Reynoldses treated the stocks like children achieving great success in the process.

Some people may have found their passion a bit obsessive, but I like to call it “focused”.   Focusing on a goal is always the key to success and I think we can all agree that Gilmore and Golda were very successful indeed.

From Decatur Illinois to London England

For many, education is a means to success in life and that fact is most beautifully demonstrated by the life of Florence Coles Ballenger.

Florence Coles was born in 1907 in the town of Decatur Illinois. Decatur, situated amidst the rolling Illinois cornfields, was once the home of a young Abraham Lincoln and is also an agro-processing center for the state. This was an unlikely place for a millionaire to get her start to be sure.

Florence attended the local teachers college in Illinois graduating in 1925 and then embarked on a career in education that would define the rest of her life.

Florence felt that education was the key to everything and set out to instill that same sense of wonder and thirst for knowledge in her students. Her career as an English teacher was spent at the community college level teaching first at a college in the Chicago area and later at a college in St. Petersburg Florida.

Life went on in a happy blur for Florence and her husband William until Florence decided it was time at age 70 to retire. But did Florence kick back and enjoy some of that Florida sunshine after her retirement? Not a chance. She quickly volunteered as a tutor for the same college she had just retired from sometimes working there five days a week. She continued this pattern even after her husband’s death in 1985.

It was at this point that Florence’s financial situation made a radical departure. Always one to be frugal, Florence made the decision to live on her teachers’ retirement pension and social security and not touch the $387,000 trust left by her husband. She continued to invest her own money as well

While she was very frugal, her life was not without some indulgences. One of the most notable was the efficiency apartment she rented in London every summer to escape the Florida heat. I’m sure a teacher would find plenty to capture her attention and imagination in such a historical and cosmopolitan city!Ballenger, Florence

Upon her death in 1999 at the age of 92, anyone who knew Florence would conclude that she had led a full and meaningful life. But what they would never conclude from examining her life was that Florence was a millionaire several times over.

Yes, Florence was another Surprise Millionaire. Not only had her husband’s trust account grown from $387,000 at his passing to just under $3 million, she had grown her own personal wealth to $3.6 million as well! This was all accomplished through frugalness and regular, consistent investing. I’m sure those around her were speechless! Also speechless were the four separate colleges who benefited from Florence’s $6 million estate. In subsequent years Florence’s bequests have been used to fund scholarships and capital improvement programs at all four of the institutions. Florence continues to positively influence young minds long after her passing. Another Surprise Millionaire worth emulating!

Minnesota’s “Chainsaw Millionaire” Gives Back

Tiny Lake Lillian Minnesota (population 238) and the surrounding county of Kandyohi will all share in a $6.4 million estate left by a one-time local girl who made good.  This “Chainsaw Millionaire’s” widow left quite a surprise for the hometown crowd!  It’s nice when people remember where they came from and give back to their communities.