Janitor, secretly a millionaire, donates fortune after his death

Not even those closest to Ronald Read, a Vermont-based janitor, knew that quiet man had amassed a fortune of nearly $8 million before his death.

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After his death in 2014, Read left $1.2 million to the Brooks Memorial Library and $4.8 million to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital in Vermont.

"I always say about Ronald, 'Still waters run deep,'" neighbor Mark Richards said.

Read served in WWII after high school in 1940. He later worked as a gas station attendant and as a janitor at a J.C. Penny department store, Reuters reported.

In his later years, Read, who married and gained two stepchildren, became a regular at the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital cafe.

"He always had a cup of coffee and and English muffin with peanut butter. That was it," said friend Ellen Smith.

Smith said Read told her about an incident in which another man paid for his breakfast because he thought Read wouldn't be able to afford it.

"You'd never know the man was a millionaire," his lawyer, Laurie Rowell, told Reuters. "The last time he came here, he parked far away in a spot where there were no meters so he could save the coins."

Read drove a secondhand Toyota Yaris, according to Reuters.

Friends said Read, who made most of his money in the stock market, never spent money unnecessarily.

"Mr. Read owned at least 95 stocks at the time of his death, many of which he had held for years, if not decades," the Wall Street Journal reported.

The hospital and library are using the money to improve their operations. They're also taking a leaf out of Read’s book by investing some of the money to make it last.

"Being a self-made man with his investments, he recognized the transformative nature of a library, what it can do for people," said the library's executive director, Jerry Carbone. 

Should you invest like Ronald Read, the frugal Vermonter who left behind an $8 million estate?

Posted by The Wall Street Journal on Sunday, March 22, 2015