Recently, I learned of Dorothy K. Merrill who left quite the surprise for the folks in her St. Paul Minnesota community of Woodbury. Not known to be particulary interested in the arts, Dorothy surprisingly became a significant donor (to the tune of $2 million ) toward the building of a community arts center in Woodbury. Dorothy, who passed away in 2009, was reported to be both frugal and a savy investor. These twin attributes set her apart from her peers.
Dorothy who was known to be a master seamstress, accomplished baker and skilled card player in her lifetime can now have philanthropist added to that list of accomplishments. And we have the privilege of adding another well-rounded, interesting and giving person to our Surprise Millionaire family.
This retired nurse with a big heart wowed her central Iowa community with very generous gifts disbursed to many area organizations. She left a gift of $130,165 to a local school district which was only a small portion of her wealth. She additionally, left substantial funds to a local Fire Department, a Senior Citizen Center anda local college . Her gifts were a true work of “heart” for her community.
A littletechnical college in Milwaukee received a surprising gift a few years ago that has been assisting students with the cost of schooling ever since. And to think, all of this from a little old lady who took some sewing and painting classes at the college after her retirement. Another Surprise Millionaire has left their legacy and made their mark on the local community!
Eighty-one year old Alabama resident, Louis Mapp, spends his days in a way that is probably different from many of his peers. USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Mobile is very fortunate to have Mr. Mapp as a dedicated volunteer in the NICU unit rocking, feeding and caring for premature babies who can’t always have their parents with them. The Hospital has another reason for being grateful to Mr. Mapp and his wife Melinda as well. Namely the $1 million donation they gave to the NICU unit to assist with its ongoing operation.
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.
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!