Here at the Surprise Millionaires, we often report on an individual who has recently passed indicating that their bequests will result in a lasting legacy. Today, we have the opportunity to see that legacy come to its fruition.
This past January, the final sum of Surprise Millionaire John A. Johnson’s twenty year trust was delivered to the Salvation Army of Chautauqua County, New York. Mr. Johnson, a quiet and frugal Swedish immigrant, had left an estate worth $7 million back in 1996 to the people of Chautauqua County and specifically to his hometown of Jamestown.
Mr. Johnson had been a factory worker and carpenter throughout his life and was also a shrewd investor. He was known to be a follower of the “buy and hold” strategy. Once he bought a stock, he never sold. That strategy certainly paid off for him!
For the past twenty years Mr. Johnson’s millions have stayed right in the community he loved and benefited the human services programs administered by the Salvation Army. The ripple effect of Mr. Johnson’s legacy cannot be measured! What a blessing he was to his community!
I have always known it to be true but now there appears to be some proof. The more thrifty a person is has a direct correlation to their happiness and life satisfaction. At least according to this article and the poll they reference. Now we know why our Surprise Millionaires always seem like such happy and content people!
Pennsylvania mechanical engineer, Raymond Suckling, lived a modest life. Fond of White Castle hamburgers and the chipped beef served at his local diner, Mr. Suckling would not be described as a connoisseur of the finer things in life. That is unless you count the fine quality of his friendships and his sterling character.
Mr. Suckling’s life did start out with what one might think of as somewhat privileged. The son of a business executive, Raymond was afforded a good education even after his father’s death when Raymond was only a boy. But it appears that the “silver spoon” stopped there. Mr. Suckling’s adult life was characterized by hard work, sound investing and a frugal, unassuming character.
As you can imagine, it was quite a shock to his friends and associates when they learned that Mr. Suckling had left an estate totaling $37.1 million to a Pittsburgh area charity.
Who would have thought that the man who was fond of Velcro sneakers, drove a Subaru and loved White Castle hamburgers was the same man who accumulated $37.1 million? No one, apparently! While some reports state that the majority of Raymond’s wealth was inherited, those who knew him best indicate that it was a combination of inherited and accumulated wealth due to Ray’s unassuming frugal ways.
Regardless of the origin of his wealth, it was Mr. Suckling’s unassuming thrifty lifestyle which allowed him to make such a dynamic impact on his community and change lives for the better.
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!
This hometown hero and Surprise Millionaire astounded his small Iowa community by leaving them his entire estate totaling $5.7 million! The only stipulation the local clothier made was that the funds be used to improve and beautify the slowly fading town. And what do you suppose they chose as the first project for their significant windfall? How about building the world’s biggest popcorn ball!
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.
While I am not in agreement with everything Mr. Thoreau said or wrote, this quote is spot on for the potential Surprise Millionaires out there.