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!
“The couple led a frugal life. Richard worked every Saturday, and they ate out only once a week..”
I thought this very patriotic holiday would be a great time to honor one of our veterans who left a lasting legacy to his community. Happy Independence Day!
Ruth Greiner was a hard working Virginia court stenographer who spent a lifetime working in and around the legal system. Though she was the widow and also the daughter of local attorneys, Ruth was no lady of leisure. In fact, she was so hard working and frugal that she didn’t even own an electric clothes dryer! Surely, someone who did without many of the basic necessities of life would not have the financial backing to make a difference in others lives … or could she?
Beulah and Lulah Alert left $885,000 to local organizations, $285,000 each to the Hampton Public Library Foundation, the Franklin County Historical Society and the Franklin General Hospital Foundation.
“What a wonderful gift they have given the community,” library director Judy Harper said.
Residents knew little about the Alert family. The women and their parents lived frugally choosing to go without running water or electricity.
Sometimes their isolation brought on personal attacks. And few outside the family apparently knew of the sister’s considerable investments until after Beulah’s death in November 2001. Lulah died in 1994.
“I think everyone was surprised at the amount,” Harper said.
The surprise just reinforces the adage not to judge a book by its cover, said Jim Jorgensen Jr., executor of the estate.
“Just because they lived that way, doesn’t mean that they didn’t appreciate their community,” he said.
Jorgensen befriended the family when Beulah’s older sister Lulah asked him to run their farm in the 1960s. Though the family lived without modern conveniences, Jorgensen said they were well-read and that they did listen to a battery-powered radio.
Lulah Alert attended Iowa State University, earning a degree in chemistry. She returned to care for her family. Neither sibling married or had children.
Jorgensen suspects Lulah made most of the investments because she managed the farm. She probably gleaned investment information from publications such as the Wall Street Journal and U.S. News & World Report.
Jorgensen learned of the wise investments only after Beulah asked him to become a conservator of the trust when Lulah died. He said he did not influence Alert’s decision on how to distribute the funds.
The Hampton organizations received the fruit of the investments near the end of February, but no one knows why the women picked the organizations they did.
Jorgensen, a member of the Franklin County Historical Society, assumes the money received by the organization will go into a fund, though foundation members have not decided what to do.
The library could use the money for part of a renewal project for the 100-year-old building. However, foundation members have not made a decision.
The hospital foundation will use some of the money for a project and invest remaining funds. The foundation learned it was included in Alert’s will last year, but only learned the amount in February.
“I want to express our gratitude,” said Le Ann Strother, director of the hospital’s foundation. “These people lived very quiet lives in this community and quietly left such a wonderful gift that will be appreciated for years to come.”
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