Brattleboro man donates fortune after death

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (NEWS10) – A small Vermont town was pleasantly surprised when it received a very generous donation made by a local man.

Ronald “Ronnie” Read was known as a humble and frugal man. It wasn’t until his death that people found out about his secret fortune.

His attorney said Read made millions by investing in stocks over the years, and the 92 year old wanted to make sure a majority of that money went to his community.

Read’s bequest of nearly $5 million went to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, and over $1 million went to Brooks Memorial Library.

Those who knew Read said they were surprised he was a millionaire. They said he lived a very modest life.

“He lived quietly and humbly over here,” neighbor Earl Gero said. “We would serve meals to him from the church on Thanksgiving. He would always take a meal and never asked for nothing in return.”

Read’s attorney Laurie Rowell said Read had two hobbies: chopping wood and investing in stocks.

“He read the Wall Street journal every day and studied the market and made his own investments,” she said.

That’s how the former gas station employee and janitor slowly started building his fortune. And no one had a clue.

“He had a winter jacket that was well worm around the cuffs and dirty actually,” Rowell said. “And holding together with a safety pin. He very much looked like he was a wood cutter; not an investor.”

Rowell said she worked with Read for six years. She said her client wanted to make sure his money benefitted his community.

“Later in life, he did become a member as he retired and had more time on his hands,” Library Trustees President. Jerry Goldberg said. “He used to come to the library as we’ve come to know. None of us knew him personally. He was just this little man who came.”

Library officials hope to use the money to renovate the building as the library has become the center the community, and they’re looking forward to honoring the generous benefactor.

“He wanted the money to stay local,” Rowell said. “The hospital had been very good to him. He was ill there a few times in the last few years.”

“It goes to show you had work pays, and the most righteous people go unnoticed,” Gero said.

Rowell said the moral of the story is to never judge a book by its cover.

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