“Weird Ward” A True Teacher

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

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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.

Destined For Greatness

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Named after the great 19th century education reformer, it would seem that college professor Horace Mann was always destined to be an educator.  However, most college professors are not destined to become millionaires.  That takes frugality and long term investing.  Fortunately, Horace Mann had all of the attributes to make that happen!

The Little Store on The Corner

The little man at the corner store was a staple in his neighborhood for decades.  Always there with a friendly smile and a helpful attitude, you could almost take someone like that for granted.  However, we have learned here at the Surprise Millionaires that these are the exact type of people never to take for granted

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Giving To Others What They Never Had

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Melvin and Kathryn Johnson grew up during a time when educational opportunities were hard to come by; especially when you were trying to make a living and put food on the table.   That is why their recent gifts to the Yellowstone Boys & Girls Ranch as well as their local school districts made such a lasting impression.  It is people (and Surprise Millionaires) like these folks that make me hopeful for the future!

One Surprise Millionaire Inspires Another

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Edward Daken amassed quite a fortune through hard work, frugal living and wise investing.  However, unlike other surprise millionaires, Mr. Daken amassed his wealth for the express purpose of leaving it to worthwhile causes.  It seems that years ago Mr. Daken read a story about another gentleman who amassed wealth through frugality leaving his wealth to a local school district.  Mr. Daken must have thought, “if he can do it, so can I”.  And then … he DID!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Woman’s Generous Gift Allows Another To Retire In Peace

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Danbury’s St. Peter School gets $1 million bequest

Eileen FitzGerald – Updated 9:53 pm, Monday, August 5, 2013

DANBURY — St. Peter School Principal Mary McCormack wasn’t quite ready to wrap up her 43-year career until she knew the school she loved was financially solvent.  So she turned to prayer.

“I never felt comfortable leaving with someone having to come in and pick up the pieces so I prayed the school would be solvent,” McCormack said Monday. “The Lord heard my prayers.”

Former student Joan McNulty Kilby left $1 million in her will to the Main Street school that has been in Danbury since 1885. The gift helped allay the 73-year-old school principal’s worries as she neared retirement, and will help with tuition for many students.

Kilby, nicknamed “Dixie,” grew up at 107 South St. in Danbury. She died Dec. 11, a month shy of her 90th birthday, in Boca Raton, Fla. “It’s a great story,” said Mary Sue Donohue, Kilby’s attorney since 1987. “She felt the positive effects of a Catholic education.”

Kilby served for two years in World War II and was a librarian at the New York School of Social Work at Columbia University and, Donohue said, she was frugal. She married Henry Kilby, a widower, and they agreed to the bequest to St. Peter School.

Kilby stayed informed about conditions at St. Peter, a kindergarten through eighth-grade school, and knew about its financial woes and low enrollment.

In 2007, the Diocese of Bridgeport merged Sacred Heart and St. Peter schools, but kept the younger and older students separate. In the last couple of years, however, the diocese has continued to move grades to St. Peter, and this fall all the students, including pre-kindergarten will be there, for a total of about 155 students.

Kilby didn’t want the school to know of her bequest until after her death. Donovan notified the school Dec. 14. She said she was told the school was in lockdown because it was the day Adam Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and killed six educators and 20 children.

Kilby also donated $1 million to the St. Joan of Arc parish near her Boca Raton, Fla., home.

Kindergarten teacher Donna McCarthy, who has worked with McCormack since 2004, said she was sorry her boss left so soon. “It’s sad that she’s not getting to enjoy the money,” McCarthy said. “I never have seen a woman work harder to see a school succeed. Even during the merger, she never gave up faith it would work,” McCarthy said. “She never gave up hope. We knew it was always going to work because she was behind it.”

McCormack, was a teacher for 18 years in the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., and a teacher and administrator for 25 years in the Diocese of Bridgeport. She said she hopes to teach again.

“It was a great joy to hear about this gift,” said Sister Mary Grace Walsh, the interim superintendent of schools for the Bridgeport diocese. Walsh praised McCormack’s skills as a principal and said her successor, Suzanna Zello, would continue her work.

“I know she will carry on the great traditions that Mary McCormack established there. Suzanna will be a good steward of that money,” Walsh said. “This will help close the gap between the real cost of educating the children and what parents can afford to pay.”

Walsh has her own connections to St. Peter that make the donation and the school’s success meaningful to her.

“This is very special to me because my grandfather graduated from the school in the early 1900s,” she said. “My grandfather was Irish and the school has always been a school for children of immigrants.”

eileenf@newstimes.com; 203-731-3333