A dedicated “Dead Head” and Surprise Millionaire

Standard

Phyllis A. Stone

New York!  The very name conjures up visions of fame, fortune and, dare I say it, wealth.  It would not be hard to imagine a multi-millionaire in this environment living it up.

However, I am not speaking about New York City, but rather New York state; and the city in question is definitely not “the city that never sleeps”.

Albany, New York is located up-state from New York City and functions as the state capital.  It is part of a conglomeration of small cities which make up what is known as the Capital District.

Phyllis Stone

Life is much slower in Albany compared to its sister to the south and is not as well known for producing great wealth.  Albany is actually the perfect location for another surprise millionaire!

Phyllis A. Stone was a very unassuming woman.  At the time of her death in 2013 at age 91, Phyllis had lived in the same weather worn, two family flat in a working class area of Albany for several decades and drove a vehicle of undeterminable age.  Yet when her estate was settled, the final tabulation totaled more than six million dollars!

Phyllis never married and had no family to speak of but was known to be “a hoot” which won her many friends.  Most of these friends were just as shocked as everyone else regarding the size of Phyllis’ estate.   Also in shock were the many charities that Phyllis blessed with her bequests.

Organizations from the Salvation Army to Whiskers, Inc. (Phyllis had several cats) were the recipients of her generosity.  But where did this great wealth come from?

Phyllis’ story is one of those combinations of self-made wealth along with a little inherited wealth as well.  She had indicated to some of her friends that she inherited money upon the death of her parents some forty plus years ago.  In addition, Phyllis was a long time employee of the Mobil Oil Corporation in which she obtained stock from early on in the company’s history.  The company stock split many times over the years making Phyllis a major shareholder.

Phyllis was also a dedicated “Dead Head” and was purported to be a friend of Gerry Garcia and the rest of the band.  It was said that she attended concerts well into her eighties!  She was also known to drop in to visit the city’s Mayor in his offices whenever she was in the area “just to chat”.  It was also discovered that she was a shareholder in a local bank and had for years kept a box at the Saratoga race track.

Unfortunately, like many of our surprise millionaires, Phyllis was a study in contrasts.  While she was very wealthy and seemed to embrace some of the benefits of that wealth, she was also found to have lived a substandard daily existence.

Her home was piled high with old newspapers, paper sacks and various other forms of waste and debris.  The mechanic who worked on her car indicated that the back seat was piled high with newspapers almost reaching the windows.  Sadly, in her later years as dementia took its toll on her faculties, her personal appearance suffered as well.  What a sad situation for such a loving and caring lady.

However, Phyllis had friends who watched out for her well-being during this time and saw to it that she had the care she needed.  She even hired a young man to be her “bodyguard” after her home had been broken in to some years earlier (this same young man was remembered in Phyllis’ will as well).

This sweet and lovable character touched all those she knew and benefited so many deserving charities and organizations after she was gone; another successful life well lived.

A Waiter With A Vision For America’s Future

Standard

Tony Bozich

The town of Everett Washington; Anthony “Tony” Bozich made a name for himself there.  Around those parts, he is known as the man who worked as a waiter but died a millionaire.  However, what is not readily known by many people in this northern Seattle suburb; is that Anthony Bozich is a man who went not from just a waiter, but from a homeless orphan to a multi-millionaire!

Born in 1910, by his own account Tony’s childhood in the upper peninsula of Michigan was not a happy one resulting in an orphanage placement as a young boy.  He left that orphanage at 14 beginning a life of hard work that would define the rest of his life.  He spent much of his teen years working at area logging camps.  Hard work for even  a grown man let alone a teenager.

A person who tended to keep to himself; not much is known about Tony’s private life.  He was divorced and had no children.  He was known to have a sister living in the area at one time who predeceased him.  Other than that, the only other attribute that made Tony stand out to others was his strong work ethic.

That strong work black-and-white-coffee-shop-waiterethic and a fortuitous conversation at a Cincinnati Country Club he was working at changed Tony’s financial future.    As a young man, an elderly society matron encouraged Tony to invest $5 out of every paycheck in the stock market.  She also convinced him to study the Wall Street Journal and even supplied him with old copies.

Thus began Tony’s self-education in finance and investing.  A man who not only had never been to college, but hadn’t even graduated high school began building a nest egg which would grow to enviable proportions.  It is reported that even in the downed economy the estate is still worth $1.5 million.

It certainly took more than $5 a paycheck to accumulate the fortune Tony left behind, so how did he do it?  According to some, it was due to his extreme frugalness.  He had no car, preferring the public transportation system and lived in a small apartment on a quiet, unassuming street.  His most favorite restaurant, McDonalds!  He only spent money on things he absolutely needed.  This provided him the capital to invest.  And invest he did, for many decades building a very profitable stock portfolio.  But what was a man with no family to do with a fortune upon his passing?  Tony already had that  figured out!

Tony was strongly opinionated on what he saw as Japan’s dominance in the automobile and electronics industries.  He believed this was due to a lack of students entering scientific and engineering fields in America.    America already had enough bankers, lawyers and stockbrokers in his opinion!  What it needed were more engineers and scientists.  Tony wanted to use his fortune to help make that happen.

Enter the Rotary Club.  The Rotary International, formed in 1905, is a service organization with over 34,000 clubs all over the world.  The organization brings business leaders together to provide humanitarian services throughout the world; usually with each club focusing on their individual community.  Tony found out about this organization through a friend and soon became involved.  He also found out about the local clubs annual college scholarships given to area students.

Toni donated a large portion of his estate, several years prior to his death in 2004, as an endowment to help fund an annual scholarship given by the Rotary Club of Everett.  Toni stipulated that his scholarships would go to students studying math, science or medicine.  Four scholarships are distributed each year based on the proceeds earned though the endowment.  Thanks to Tony’s generosity, we might just have a few more engineers and scientists right here on American soil.  That would make our proud American very proud indeed!

The Frugal Voice Of her Mother

Standard

Elinor Sauerwein

The Salvation Army of Modesto California has a lot to be thankful for these days. This organization takes its mission to help the less fortunate of its community very seriously. From offering cooling centers during heat waves to its “Red Shield Center” providing a safe place for children to learn and play, the Salvation Army is a positive force in the life of Modesto California.

This was just the type of organization local resident Elinor Sauerwein was looking for. No, Mrs. Sauerwein wasn’t looking for help from the Salvation Army; she actually wanted to help them. And help she did by leaving them the majority of her estate worth approximately $1.7 million.
So, not much of a story here; wealthy socialite leaves money to charity. That would be the case except Elinor Sauerwein was no socialite and few knew of her hard-earned wealth either.

Mary Elinor Baumgart, known as Elinor, was born in 1914 in the town of Crookston Nebraska. Born to a very frugal mother, Elinor was taught to not waste anything, a skill she took to heart as a young woman during the Great Depression. After graduating college she began teaching at Crookston’s one-rooElinor Sauerweinm schoolhouse. By all accounts, not a glamorous job, Elinor rode to work on horseback arriving early to clean the school and light a fire to warm the building before her students arrived.

Elinor’s teaching career ended in 1945 when she married Harold Sauerwein and moved west to California. The Saurweins landed jobs on a local ranch in Modesto; Harold as a ranch hand with Elinor as a cook. Harold later became a contractor building the small house in Modesto that Elinor spent the rest of her life in. Elinor would later work at LM Morris business machines.

By all accounts, Harold was a frugal man and how he began to build his wealth was a little different from most stories. In the mid-1970s, Harold answered an ad placed in the local paper by a finance company looking for people to invest in discounted loans. This is an investment vehicle in which an individual buys out a noteholder and assumes the debt. Harold invested in this way over the next two decades, watching his portfolio grow, until his death in 1994. Now alone after Harold’s death and the death of their son in 1988, Elinor continued their investment strategy by investing in deeds of trust. A survivor of the Depression, Elinor would never let her savings account balance go above the insured limit always withdrawing money to invest in deeds of trust, or if no deeds were available, she would invest in stocks to keep her account balances within federally insured limits.

But how did middle-class Elinor Sauerwein accumulate funds in her bank accounts that regularly reached the federally insured limit? Well, most would say that Elinor was the frugal sort.

Elinor, whose mother’s voice was never far from thought, continued the frugal way of living she had grown accustomed to. Despite the fact that she was very “well off” financially. She cleaned her own home and even painted the outside when it needed it. She never owned a dishwasher or a clothes dryer, preferring to hang her clothes on a line in the back yard. She mowed her own grass well into her nineties and grew her own fruits and vegetables picking them herself from atop a tall ladder.

She never ate in restaurants, went to the movies or paid for cable television. She had only one vacation in her life when a friend convinced her to go to Hawaii. This was followed by Elinor’s remorseful explanations to friends as to why she had indulged in this “spending spree”. When asked why she didn’t indulge more and spend a little on herself, Elinor was quick to point out the good the Salvation Army would do with the money after her passing. The goal to leave as big a bequest as possible to the organization defined the last period of Elinor’s life.

That defining moment came on Christmas Eve a year after Elinor’s 2010 death at the age of 96. Elinor’s friend and financial advisor had the enviable task of presenting the Salvation Army with a check for $1.7 million. They were obviously shocked and very grateful.

The organization will use half of the funds for brick and mortar projects with the other half being held in endowment with the interest going to pay for day-to-day operations. As Elinor stipulated, all funds will go to assist the Modesto branch of the Salvation Army and the Modesto community. With the endowment alone, Elinor’s gift will be impacting the community she called home for decades to come.

Vanguard University’s Student Advocate (and Surprise Millionaire)

Standard

Bruce Lindsay

Vanguard University, a picturesque little Christian college in Costa Mesa California is a lot wealthier these days thanks to the last will and testament of its “Campus Grandpa”, Bruce Lindsay.

To understand Mr. Lindsay’s connection to the university, you have to go back nearly forty years. Bruce was a fixture over at the Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian cafeteria in Newport Beach during the early 1960s. Then someone told him that a cheaper meal could be had over at Vanguard University; all you could eat for a buck and a quarter.

Bruce began taking his meals at the University and never left. He soon became a Christian and the campus became his unofficial second home. He earned the official title of “student advocate” in the 1980s. The students really connected to this older gentleman bringing their concerns to him which he in turn took to the administration. As an added perk, the title came with all the free food he could eat.

By all accounts he was loved by students and faculty alike. Having never married or having any children, the university staff became an unofficial family to Bruce taking turns driving him to doctor and dentist appointments and other various errands. Bruce’s dining table was always home to an eclectic mix of students and faculty. Everyone was welcome and Bruce dispensed a healthy portion of common-sense and wisdom to all.

Bruce was born in 1930 and grew up in Omaha Nebraska. A child of the depression, Bruce experienced extreme poverty often going to bed hungry. His early days affected him profoundly giving him the drive to do better in life. It also turned young Bruce into a self-described “miser”.

He made his money by buying cheap oil and mineral leases back in the 1960s and by scouting out and buying bargain properties. He was said to have over 1,000 oil leases alone. He was so good at what he did, he was often asked to be a guest speaker for the university’s Intro to Business classes.
Bruce elevated living on the cheap to an art form. He was found of cookies he got for free from car dealerships and banks. He also enjoyed an occasional free movie. Business professor Ed Westbrook is quoted as saying, “He (Bruce) was a good illustration of a man who was frugal and able to live on very little,” Westbrook said. “It was a counterbalance to people who thought you needed to make a lot of money to live well in life.”

In Lindsay, BruceFebruary of 2009, Vanguard University lost its “student advocate” and longtime friend but gained a monetary boost. Bruce’s last will and testament named the university as his sole beneficiary to an estate of over $1 million.

Bruce’s generosity will be put to good use, from the library to the cafeteria itself, Bruce will live on in the hearts of Vanguard University’s staff and students.