What A Wonderful Life!

“Helen was one of the strongest ladies we have ever known, she did it her way!”

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We are all aging.  It is just a fact of life.  However, many people react to this fact by withdrawing from daily life thinking that they have nothing to contribute to the world.  This would never be said of today’s Surprise Millionaire Helen Yecny.  This northern California lady recently passed away at the ripe old age of 99 and with the accolades and praise heaped upon her, you would think she was a young vibrant person half her age!

Frugal to a fault and always saving for that “rainy day”, Helen was quite the character.  Content to live in the home and walnut orchard that she was born in, Helen could be seen most days tending to her yard and her orchard working to maintain the business that had supplemented she and her husband Lou’s income for decades.

However, don’t let it be said that Helen didn’t know how to enjoy life!  After Lou’s passing, Helen became quiet the traveler accompanying friends to such places as Alaska, Mexico, Hawaii and Europe.  She was also known for her quick wit and sense of humor which would liven up any conversation she was involved in.

Having not been blessed with children, Helen and Lou wanted to find a way to assist the children of the Central Valley region of California with obtaining a much-needed education.

This is why California State University, Stanislaus is the grateful recipient of $2.3 million from Helen’s estate.  The funds will be used to sponsor scholarships through the university’s undergraduate honors program.  But that’s not all, rumor has it that Helen left funds to some of the local high school districts as well.

I believe Helen’s obituary says it best, “Helen’s afterglow will be felt for generations to come.”  What a wonderful statement and what a wonderful life!

“Weird Ward” A True Teacher

… he taught me that it’s not about yourself. ‘Do something for someone else — someone you’ll never meet.’

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Teachers

I’m sure there are many of us who could tell a story about a teacher who once inspired us, made us think about life in a different way or just made learning fun!  Today’s Surprise Millionaire did all of those things while accumulating some wealth along the way.

High school chemistry teacher Pat ‘Weird’ Ward inspired his students with his wacky way of teaching chemistry.  This led his students to bestow upon him the honorary moniker of ‘Weird’ Ward.  Mr. Ward was also the type of teacher who inspired his students to reach for more in life than what they thought they might attain in their Tulsa Oklahoma neighborhoods.  So it was no surprise upon his passing that this long time educator left a bequest to education.  However, the size and scope of the gift was quite unexpected.

Destined For Greatness

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Named after the great 19th century education reformer, it would seem that college professor Horace Mann was always destined to be an educator.  However, most college professors are not destined to become millionaires.  That takes frugality and long term investing.  Fortunately, Horace Mann had all of the attributes to make that happen!

The Little Store on The Corner

The little man at the corner store was a staple in his neighborhood for decades.  Always there with a friendly smile and a helpful attitude, you could almost take someone like that for granted.  However, we have learned here at the Surprise Millionaires that these are the exact type of people never to take for granted

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Giving To Others What They Never Had

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Melvin and Kathryn Johnson grew up during a time when educational opportunities were hard to come by; especially when you were trying to make a living and put food on the table.   That is why their recent gifts to the Yellowstone Boys & Girls Ranch as well as their local school districts made such a lasting impression.  It is people (and Surprise Millionaires) like these folks that make me hopeful for the future!

One Surprise Millionaire Inspires Another

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Edward Daken amassed quite a fortune through hard work, frugal living and wise investing.  However, unlike other surprise millionaires, Mr. Daken amassed his wealth for the express purpose of leaving it to worthwhile causes.  It seems that years ago Mr. Daken read a story about another gentleman who amassed wealth through frugality leaving his wealth to a local school district.  Mr. Daken must have thought, “if he can do it, so can I”.  And then … he DID!