One of the most rewarding things I have found while profiling Surprise Millionaires from around the world is discovering the unique characters that make up this special group of people. Today’s Surprise Millionaire is certainly no exception. From traveling the world on a budget to finding and donating extremely rare and unique books to his university’s library, Richard Lee Merritt certainly lived his life to the fullest (quite frugally of course). He and his wife never made large salaries but were still able to buy and rehab many properties in the San Francisco area (long before today’s premium prices!) and had a lot of fun doing it. This real estate formed the foundation of the multi-million dollar estate the Merritts left behind. This included the $2 million donation to the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library at the University of Montana, Richard’s alma mater and the recipient of all of those rare books over the years. This was the largest bequest ever received by the library. Taking both the bequest and the book donations into consideration, Richard had donated roughly $3 million to the library over his lifetime! Quite an accomplishment I would say.
I think few would argue that Montana is a state called home by many rugged individualists. People who make their own way in life on their own terms. What a perfect place to produce a Surprise Millionaire!
LeRoy Beckman was just such a person. Raised in poverty by a single mother, Mr. Beckman went on to amass an estate totaling $3 million simply by virtue of his frugality and wise investing.
An avid outdoorsman, Mr. Beckman’s estate created a wildlife preserve to ensure that a large part of Montana’s vast terrain will remain unspoiled and accessible to the public for years to come.