Hip To Be Square!

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We have often spoke of the surprise many people have upon finding out that a quiet unassuming friend or neighbor has amassed a fortune.  But what a double shock it would be to find out that those same quiet unassuming people were not only millionaires but also well-known insiders in the hip and avant garde New York City art world!

That’s right, Art was the investment vehicle they used to make millions while also giving them an amazing social life along the way.  And this from a man who never earned more than $23,000 a year!

Take a tour of the Vogel Collection and learn about the amazing lives of Herbert and Dorothy Vogel. 

One Woman’s Generous Gift Allows Another To Retire In Peace


Danbury’s St. Peter School gets $1 million bequest

Eileen FitzGerald – Updated 9:53 pm, Monday, August 5, 2013

DANBURY — St. Peter School Principal Mary McCormack wasn’t quite ready to wrap up her 43-year career until she knew the school she loved was financially solvent.  So she turned to prayer.

“I never felt comfortable leaving with someone having to come in and pick up the pieces so I prayed the school would be solvent,” McCormack said Monday. “The Lord heard my prayers.”

Former student Joan McNulty Kilby left $1 million in her will to the Main Street school that has been in Danbury since 1885. The gift helped allay the 73-year-old school principal’s worries as she neared retirement, and will help with tuition for many students.

Kilby, nicknamed “Dixie,” grew up at 107 South St. in Danbury. She died Dec. 11, a month shy of her 90th birthday, in Boca Raton, Fla. “It’s a great story,” said Mary Sue Donohue, Kilby’s attorney since 1987. “She felt the positive effects of a Catholic education.”

Kilby served for two years in World War II and was a librarian at the New York School of Social Work at Columbia University and, Donohue said, she was frugal. She married Henry Kilby, a widower, and they agreed to the bequest to St. Peter School.

Kilby stayed informed about conditions at St. Peter, a kindergarten through eighth-grade school, and knew about its financial woes and low enrollment.

In 2007, the Diocese of Bridgeport merged Sacred Heart and St. Peter schools, but kept the younger and older students separate. In the last couple of years, however, the diocese has continued to move grades to St. Peter, and this fall all the students, including pre-kindergarten will be there, for a total of about 155 students.

Kilby didn’t want the school to know of her bequest until after her death. Donovan notified the school Dec. 14. She said she was told the school was in lockdown because it was the day Adam Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and killed six educators and 20 children.

Kilby also donated $1 million to the St. Joan of Arc parish near her Boca Raton, Fla., home.

Kindergarten teacher Donna McCarthy, who has worked with McCormack since 2004, said she was sorry her boss left so soon. “It’s sad that she’s not getting to enjoy the money,” McCarthy said. “I never have seen a woman work harder to see a school succeed. Even during the merger, she never gave up faith it would work,” McCarthy said. “She never gave up hope. We knew it was always going to work because she was behind it.”

McCormack, was a teacher for 18 years in the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., and a teacher and administrator for 25 years in the Diocese of Bridgeport. She said she hopes to teach again.

“It was a great joy to hear about this gift,” said Sister Mary Grace Walsh, the interim superintendent of schools for the Bridgeport diocese. Walsh praised McCormack’s skills as a principal and said her successor, Suzanna Zello, would continue her work.

“I know she will carry on the great traditions that Mary McCormack established there. Suzanna will be a good steward of that money,” Walsh said. “This will help close the gap between the real cost of educating the children and what parents can afford to pay.”

Walsh has her own connections to St. Peter that make the donation and the school’s success meaningful to her.

“This is very special to me because my grandfather graduated from the school in the early 1900s,” she said. “My grandfather was Irish and the school has always been a school for children of immigrants.”

eileenf@newstimes.com; 203-731-3333

No Silver Spoons Here!

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Another eccentric, wise and wonderful Surprise Millionaire has left her mark on the people and community in which she lived.  Kathy Kinnicutt may have descended from an old New England family, but she was no trust fund baby.  In fact, she was even known to have received some charitable help in her earlier days.  No, Kathy accumulated her wealth the Surprise Millionaire way; through hard work, frugality and wise investing. And like the Surprise Millionaire she was, Kathy shocked both friends and family with her generous charitable gift.

Giving Back To His Community



A one time farmer and sporting goods store manager gives back to small communities in his area. His frugality and wise investing allows him to bless others with the fruits of his labor.  Though he lives a nondescript middle-class lifestyle, he gives like the millionaire he is.  Mr. Paulson is an inspiration and very fitting of the title “Surprise Millionaire”.

It’s Back to the Seventies for a Surprise Millionaire Moment!



Dateline 1972 – Nixon is in the White House, an odd burglary has just taken place at the Watergate Hotel, people are swaying to Robert Flack’s number one hit “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and a quiet man in Northern California stuns his friends and neighbors with his knack for playing the stock market…



Marin Independent Journal
December 21, 1972

Black Point Man Leaves A Fortune To The State

A retired restaurant worker with a knack for the stock market has left from $500,000 to $1 million to the State of California. George Louis Charpentier, who died Dec. 9 on a Novato street at the age of 70, retired from a Marin restaurant about 1952 after amassing a fortune in the stock market, according to his employer. Eugene Lochenbach of Eugene’s Restaurant in San Rafael said, “he was an outstanding mind on stocks, but he was tight as Scrooge.” Lochenbach said the Black Point man made and lost several fortunes over the years, but “somehow seemed to know what the stocks would do tomorrow.”Charpentier apparently started with little money and built it into a fortune of at least $500,000, the conservative estimate on documents filed with his will in the Marin County Clerk’s Office yesterday. Never married, Charpentier was survived by his brother, Louis, also of Black Point. The brother was left an undeveloped lot in Novato. Charpentier also left $10,000 each to guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael and Our Lady of Loretto Church in Novato. His home was bequeathed to Mr. and Mrs. James B. Sanders of Novato. Another friend, Bessie Parker of Novato, received $1,000. The remainder of his estate was left to the State of California. A state inheritance tax referee in San Rafael said the bequest will not be taxed, but was unsure what the state will do with the windfall. Friends did not know why he gave his money to California. They said he had always claimed he would probably give it to charity.

The Independent Journal gave a more detailed account:

Independent Journal
December 22, 1972

Largest Gift Ever
Man Who Left Fortune To State Was A ‘Loner’

An estate worth somewhere from $500,000 to $1 million – left to the state and believed the largest ever left the state – may be a gift as strange as the giver, a miserly 70-year-old Black Point man who lived a life of surpassing loneliness. George Joseph Charpentier, a dishwasher, amassed for fortune playing the stock market, but had no use for it. He didn’t spend much, friends said, and often talked of leaving his money to charity. Nevertheless, the contents of his will surprised both friends and the state, Kenneth R. Cramer, chief of cashiering for the state Treasury Department, called the gift “one of the largest ones I’ve ever heard of.” Wills, he said, often designate money for specific institutions like the University of California, but rarely for the state itself. Such gifts, usually amounting to very little, are sunk into elementary and high school education, Cramer said. The unusual gift was left by an unusual man. Eugene Lochenbach, who employed Charpentier since 1942 at the then Hamilton Field Post Exchange and later at an Ignacio drive-in restaurant until he retired in 1952, summed him up in a story. He said that in the 1940s, Charpentier sometimes made $200 to $300 a week in the stock market, but when the battery went dead in his car, he cranked the engine by hand instead of investing $6 in a new battery. Charpentier, according to Lochenbach, his last employer, was always afraid someone would cheat him. “He was afraid one of those women was going to get him, marry him and get his money.” He never married and lived most of his life in Black Point with a younger brother, Henry, who died a couple of years ago. Henry reportedly was not intelligent enough to care for himself and his welfare was a cause of strife among the four Charpentier brothers. When Fernand Charpentier died in November 1971, he left his estate of about $35,000 to an operating engineers’ union. “I intentionally leave nothing to my two brothers, George and Louis Charpentier and any other relatives, and such omission is intentional and willful,” the will said. Louis received only a little better treatment in George’s will. He was left a piece of undeveloped land in Novato. Attorney David J. Costamagna, who handled George Charpentier’s will, said, “He felt his other two brothers hadn’t assisted him in the care of his third brother.” Charpentier at first wanted to leave everything to the state, Costamagna said, but at the attorney’s urging relented slightly. He left $10,000 to Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael and $10,000 to Our Lady of Loretto Church in Novato, where he had worshipped in his childhood, and $1,000 went to a friend, Bessie Parker of Novato. Costmagna said he thought the gifts accounted for most of his estate until his client died Dec. 9. He then learned that Charpentier had $113,000 in banks and a brokerage account in excess of $400,000. The attorney said Charpentier seemed to be an uneducated man who always wore the same wool shirt and baggy suit. “I’m sure he never spent a dime in his life,” Costmagna said. The only extravagances in his life apparently were late model cars, according to friends. He reportedly drove a Cadillac. Mrs. Parker, a longtime friend of the family, presented a more humane picture. She said he was a kind man and a very good friend, but “kind of a loner.” “He didn’t want to be active in anything. He just walked around and talked to himself and watched the stock market,” she said.It was on one of his walks that he died. He was found collapsed in front of his car at the end of a Novato street where he frequently strolled. Mrs. Parker said she tried to interest him in senior citizen events and suggested ways to dispose of his estate. “I didn’t dare suggest that he leave it to me,” she said. Charpentier was born in Oregon and moved to Black Point while a boy. Working first in a Novato cheese factory, then in restaurants, his salaries were never very high, but by saving and investing he reportedly won and lost several fortunes. Costamagna said that in the last year he made $42,000 from the stock market doing most of the trading himself. “He wanted every dime he could get,” the attorney said.


Changing America One Neighborhood at a Time

With all of the negativity in the news this week, I thought it would be a great time to focus on someone who is doing good in the world.  A self-made and some would say, Surprise Millionaire who is giving back to his community and wants to change America one neighborhood at a time.


The Surprise Anonymous Millionaire

anonymouswomanSeveral charities in northern Idaho are the recipients of a charitable trust established by a frugal and anonymous millionaire.  All that is known about the benefactor is that she spent the last ten years of her life living very frugally in order to accumulate the $1.5 million estate that established the trust.

A very humble woman, this anonymous benefactor did not want her name disclosed to the public.  We do know that she was born in New York in the 1920s and was involved in the arts as a photographer.  She retired to northern Idaho some years ago.

This is the first surprise AND anonymous millionaire I have encountered.  Could there be more?