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Secret Millionaire Lived Frugal Life, Surprises Local Hospital, Library With Donations

Ronald Read died in June at age 92. Unknown to his neighbors, the thrifty Vermont resident had amassed a fortune.

Posted on February 4, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. ET

AP Photo / Estate of Ronald Read

A retired gas station employee and janitor surprised his neighbors by leaving millions of dollars to a local hospital and library in his will.

Ronald Read, who died in June at age 92, never talked about his fortune, the Associated Press reported.

Neighbors in Dummerston, Vermont, told the Battleboro Reformer that for years Read could be seen picking up fallen branches to use as firewood. He drove a 2007 Toyota Yaris, and sometimes patched up an old coat with safety pins.

But when he died, he left $4.8 million to the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and $1.2 million to the Brooks Memorial Library, as well as smaller gifts to the local historical society and others.

Read had a gift for picking stocks, his attorney explained to the Reformer.

"Over time these investments grew substantially," Laurie Rowell said.

Read was born in the Vermont town in 1921 and was the first in his family to graduate high school, the AP reported. He served in World War II, then worked at a service station for 25 years. He married in 1960, but his wife died in 1970.

Even Read's stepson was surprised by the fortune. He said he knew Read would read the Wall Street Journal, but he had no idea he'd been such a successful investor.

"I was tremendously surprised," Phillip Brown said. "He was a hard worker, but I don't think anybody had an idea that he was a multimillionaire."

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