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.
No, don’t let the title fool you. The millionaire in question was not some corporate titan or Hollywood celebrity flying the friendly skies in first class. Oh no, this millionaire was the flight attendant who served them!