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.
As I have done in the past, I have the unfortunate task of profiling a Surprise Millionaire who met with foul play because they didn’t have the appropriate precautions in place to keep their wealth a secret. A Columbus Ohio property ownerand landlady made it a habit to deal only in cash when collecting rent and kept a large sum of that money on her person at all times. Unfortunately, this was a situation that an acquaintance sought to take advantage of. The resulting robbery ended with the demise of this much-loved lady. Though she is no longer with us, it is my hope her story will be a word of caution to all of you potential Surprise Millionaires out there. Remember, it is best to keep your wealth a closely guarded secret known only to your closest confidants. Living a low-key lifestyle could actually be the “key” to safety.
Frank Stern was a no nonsense businessman with the stated goal of making as much money as possible. This in and of itself sounds pretty ordinary for the business world. However, it was Mr. Stern’s reasoning for making that money which set him apart from other entrepreneurs. You see, the more money Frank made, the more he would be able to leave behind for the benefit of his community. Frank was low-key, frugal, and a great investor who wasn’t about to spend an extra dime that could be put to better use. He followed this pattern even if it meant driving miles out of his way to avoid the dreaded toll bridge in town! Frank and his thrifty ways resulted in a great windfall for his community.
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.