Tuesday 20 February 2018

Janitor who wore coat tied with safety pins leaves €5m to library and hospital after death

People often thought Ronald Read was poor
People often thought Ronald Read was poor

Heather Saul

A former janitor who wore an old coat held together with safety pins shocked his community when he left a Vermont library and hospital $6m (€5.24m) in his will.

Ronald Read, who died at the age of 92 in Dummerston, made a series of investments over the years that helped him quietly amass an $8m fortune, his lawyer Laurie Rowell told the Associated Press.

Mr Read, the first person in his family to graduate from high school, was usually seen wearing old flannel shirts and spent his free time scavenging for fallen branches for his home wood stove. He drove a second-hand Toyota Yaris.

Before his death in June earlier last year, Mr Read's only indulgence was eating breakfast at the local coffee shop, where he once tried to pay his bill only to find that someone had already covered it because they believed he could not afford to, according to Mr Rowell.

"You'd never know the man was a millionaire," Mr Rowell said. "The last time he came here, he parked far away in a spot where there were no metres so he could save the coins."

Mr Read graduated from Brattleboro High School in 1940 and served in North Africa and Italy during the Second World War. After returning home, he worked at a gas station for 25 years. He retired but became bored and worked as a janitor at a JCPenney store for the next 17 years to keep himself occupied

Last week, Brooks Memorial Library and Brattleboro Memorial Hospital each received their largest donations ever. Mr Read left $1.2m (£785,000) to the library, founded in 1886, and $4.8m (£3m) to the hospital, founded in 1904.

The library's executive director, Jerry Carbone, described the money as "a thunderbolt from the sky".

"Being a self-made man with his investments, he recognised the transformative nature of a library, what it can do for people," Mr Carbone said.

"People were stunned that he had that much money," one Dummerston resident told the Brattleboro Reformer. "I bought some old fence wiring from him once because I thought he could use the money."

Even his step children were oblivious to his fortune. His stepson Phillip Brown told USA Today: "He was a hard worker, but I don't think anybody had an idea that he was a multimillionaire."

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