An Immeasurable Legacy

 

Gray Circle Header (1)

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!

 

A Surprise Millionaire Leaves a Peaceful Legacy

“.. He was so respected and so well liked. Such a gentleman. So charming. Very humble.”

Copy of Dots Header (1)

I think we can all agree that when stress takes it’s toll on our lives it is nice to have a place to recharge our batteries.  For many of us a long walk in nature where we can quietly pray or contemplate is the perfect therapy.   This was certainly the case for today’s Surprise Millionaire John Repetski.

The retired western New York auto worker walked the grounds of his assisted living apartment complex every day that weather allowed.  So it was only natural that part of his nearly $3 million estate was used to widen and extend the existing “friendship path” at his senior living facility to give access to more residents.

Read more about Mr. Repetski here

He Engineered His Success

“In an age of pretension that’s often self-aggrandizing, he was the opposite..”

Gray Circle Header

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.

What A Wonderful Life!

“Helen was one of the strongest ladies we have ever known, she did it her way!”

Copy of Dots Header

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!

Changing The World

“..individuals who put a few words in their wills and change the world.”

Large Quote or Title wo Picture

I recently came across an article involving a Surprise Millionaire I profiled a while back.  What struck me about the article was the profound statement made by the community director of the foundation that received the bulk of the estate:

“The largest gifts (to the foundation) usually come from good people who lived quietly in service to family, church, and community,” Holmes said. “More and more the foundation is receiving large gifts from individuals who put a few words in their wills and change the world.”

This is true of every Surprise Millionaire that we profile on this blog.  A few simple lines in a will causes a chain reaction that reverberates through peoples’ lives sometimes for generations.  Whether it is fighting poverty, preserving history or protecting the disadvantaged, our Surprise Millionaires make a real impact on their communities and by extension, the world.  What a wonderful way to live your life!

“Weird Ward” A True Teacher

… he taught me that it’s not about yourself. ‘Do something for someone else — someone you’ll never meet.’

Gray Circle Header

Teachers

I’m sure there are many of us who could tell a story about a teacher who once inspired us, made us think about life in a different way or just made learning fun!  Today’s Surprise Millionaire did all of those things while accumulating some wealth along the way.

High school chemistry teacher Pat ‘Weird’ Ward inspired his students with his wacky way of teaching chemistry.  This led his students to bestow upon him the honorary moniker of ‘Weird’ Ward.  Mr. Ward was also the type of teacher who inspired his students to reach for more in life than what they thought they might attain in their Tulsa Oklahoma neighborhoods.  So it was no surprise upon his passing that this long time educator left a bequest to education.  However, the size and scope of the gift was quite unexpected.

A Word To The Wise

short-term_long-term

A word to all of you potential Surprise Millionaires out there.  Remember, the key to wealth accumulation is long-term, consistent investing.  Markets may rise and fall, but the long-term, consistent investor will achieve the goal of wealth accumulation by practicing these simple habits.  Remember the mantra of the Surprise Millionaires, “anyone can accumulate wealth”!