Ronald Read was a rare combination of janitor and millionaire.
When Read, a resident of Vermont, died in 2014 at the age of 92, nobody suspected that he was worth $8 million, the Daily Mail reports.
By all accounts, he lived a very modest life, working as a janitor for JC Penney. He wore old clothes and saved on his heating bill by using a wood stove. He would avoid parking meters to save a few coins, notes his lawyer, Laurie Rowell.
It wasn’t until he died and left $6 million to the local library and hospital that it became apparent that he wasn’t a man of modest means. He gifted $1.2 million to the library, and $4.8 million to the hospital.
The library’s executive director, Jerry Carbone, described it as “a thunderbolt from the sky.” Based on his experience as a self-made man, Read “recognized the transformative nature of a library, what it can do for people,” Carbone contended.
Attorney Rowell explains that most of Read’s investments were found in his safe deposit box after his death, reports Business Insider. The portfolio included Bank of America, CVS, AT&T, Deere, GE, and General Motors.
His strategy was simple, said Rowell, according to CNBC. “He only invested in what he knew and what paid dividends.”
Investing and cutting wood were his only hobbies, the lawyer noted in an interview with the Brattleboro Reformer:
“The generous bequests to the Brooks Library and Brattleboro Memorial Hospital attest to his skills at investing. The well-stocked woodpile in his garage attests to his love of cutting wood.”