Today’s Surprise Millionaire typifies the very meaning of our saying, “ordinary people, extraordinary wealth”. A woman who inherited a tidy sum but refused to let it change her lifestyle. On the contrary, through saving and frugality that “tidy sum” eventually grew into a wonderful legacy for her community.
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KREM2 NEWS SPOKANE, Wash. – Helen Stowell lived a simple life in West Central Spokane.
“Very simple. She was modest, unassuming. She drove an old Subaru. She gardened, pulled weeds. She walked the neighborhood with her neighbors,” said neighbor Linda Hawkins. “I’ve known her for 20 years. We used to exchange vegetables. She had her tomatoes and I had my squash.”
Stowell’s family first came to the Inland Northwest before the turn of the 20th century. Her grandfather opened a successful drugstore on Sprague Avenue.
Stowell did not know it, but her grandfather’s success would eventually supply her wealth.
“In the early 90’s, she became a multiple millionaire and really unknown to her that she had come into that kind of wealth,” said Mark Hurtuise, Inland Northwest Community Foundation CEO.
Following her passing, Stowell left $3 million to the Inland Northwest Community Foundation, a non-profit that awards grants and scholarships throughout the region.
A woman who lived simply her whole life suddenly donated millions of dollars; something that shocked her neighbors.
“It’s amazing. You never know about people. She didn’t need it, she kept it. She just used what she needed,” said Hawkins.
Stowell’s gift brought the INCWF over the $100 million mark.
“The byproduct of that is, it’s going to attract businesses to the community. It’s going to get other very wealthy people to start to think ‘Maybe I should leave what I have visa vi the Community Foundation to benefit the community,’” said Hurtuise.
Stowell’s choice to live a simple life will impact thousands.
“She didn’t use her resources, that kind of wealth, just to live a life of extravagance. The purity and honesty of her philanthropy was for the community and that’s really what’s to be celebrated here,” said Hurtuise.
Stowell’s donation has been placed in a fund benefiting animals, wildlife and the environment.