There has been a flurry of news reports coming from the Pacific Northwest over the past few months regarding donations made from a multi-millionaire’s estate. Organizations
ranging from local museums to state parkshave received assistance from a trust set up by millionaire Elizabeth ‘Bette’ Ruth Wallace.
So who was this Bette Wallace? Was she some high society grand dame looking to leave her mark through philanthropy? Or maybe a high powered executive who had earned top dollar during her career? No, Bette was neither of those things but was still pretty grand none the less.
Bette and her husband Bryan were the owners of a small drug store that they worked very hard to make a success. Through that hard work, the Wallaces were able to grow a little nest egg. After Bryan’s passing, Bette took that little nest egg and invested in several rental properties in a northern California area to bring in some income. It just so happened that in the years that followed, that particular northern California area, the one where Bette had her little rental properties, would go on to be renamed Silicon Valley! Much to her ‘surprise’, Bette had become a ‘Surprise Real Estate Mogul’.
However despite this financial windfall, Bette never lived extravagantly and always stayed just the same person she had always been. It was this ‘surprise’ real estate empire which allowed Bette to leave such a wonderful legacy to the communities in which she had called home. It seems Bette found the right ‘prescription’ for success.
No one would mistake today’s Surprise Millionaire, Steve Brewster, for a wealthy business tycoon. However his store, the Sportman’s Chalet, was a popular fixture in the Bellingham Washington community for over 30 years. Unfortunately, Steve found it necessary to sell his business in 2001 due to a significant life change. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) around that time, Steve had to focus all of his energy on living with and managing his disease. Which is just what he did for the next two decades. Tragically, Steve lost his battle with MS in 2017 leaving the community he loved behind.
Surely a man who had been battling a progressive disease which was both physically and financially draining would have nothing left to leave the community he loved, right? Wrong, even with the costs of managing his MS, Steve was still able to accumulate $1 million over the course of his life. Take a look at how Steve’s generous gift is helping his community.
Back in the 1960s, a frugal and quiet bachelor stunned his small Ohio town with the bequest he left for the maintenace of the local rundown cemetery. W.E. Nichols lived an interesting life. From running away from home at 15 to fight in the Spanish-American War to buying scores of Chevron stock certificates off of drunken oil field workers, Mr. Nichols’ young life could be thought of as anything but boring. Of course most of these interesting tidbits, including the fact that he was a multi-millionaire, didn’t come to light until after his passing. The residents of 1960s Grelton Ohio were just as shocked as we are today when learning about a Surprise Millionaire. I guess some things never change!