Dr. Howard and Lottie Marcus lived a quiet, middle-class life in the Great Neck area of Long Island for many years. They had both survived the Holocaust and had come to America with a dream of a better life. Through hard work, Howard as a dentist and Lottie as a secretary were able to carve out a small slice of the American dream for themselves.
Just by chance through a friend, Howard and Lottie were introduced to a young go-getter named Warren Buffett. They liked this young man and his ideas so much that they decided to invest all of their savings in Mr. Buffett’s venture. This “little venture” went on to become the powerhouse company of Berkshire Hathaway, making the Marcus’ very wealthy people.
Surprisingly, Howard and Lottie did not change their lifestyle one bit. They continued to live in middle-class Long Island before retiring to a one bedroom apartment in southern California.
Upon their deaths, the Marcus’ willed their $400 million estate to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU). The money will establish a permanent endowment for the university which will generate income in the millions each year. Part of the endowment money will be used to fund research addressing the water shortage in the MiddleEast, which the Marcus’ were very interested in. They believed that a ready supply of water would help to bring peace to the region.
A representative of the university summed up the Marcus’ lives and the manner in which they lived as follows:
“They defied the expectations regarding their [Holocaust] survival,” he said. “They defied expectations by establishing themselves as refugee immigrants. They defied expectations by finding their way into an unthinkable fortune. They defied expectations by never using a nickel of that fortune for their own benefit, their own enjoyment. And then they decided to put that fortune to work for the future of the Jewish people and Israel in a manner that is unheard of.”
Howard and Lottie Marcus are shining examples of the fact that you can not only survive under adversity but thrive as well. And it appears that you could become a Surprise Millionaire along the way as well.