Ronald Read was a quiet and private man who grew up in Dummerston, Vermont; he died there on June 2, 2014 at the age of 92.
After serving in WWII, he worked at Haviland's service station for 25 years. Upon learning retirement didn’t suit him, he worked at JC Penny as a janitor until 1997.
Read lived very frugally, but he died with stock holdings and property valued at almost $8 million. Most of the money was left to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and Brooks Memorial Library.
Almost no one knew about Read’s substantial wealth.
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"I was tremendously surprised,” Phillip Brown, Read’s stepson, told the Battleboro Reformer. "He was a hard worker, but I don't think anybody had an idea that he was a multi-millionaire.”
Brown drove Read to the Brooks Memorial Library, where he seemed to enjoy quietly perusing the books, but as his health declined Read was treated at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.
Read left $1.2 million to the Brooks Memorial Library, double their current endowment.
"This bequest is incredible. It's transformative," Brooks Memorial Library Executive Director Jerry Carbone said. "It's going to really provide for our future and relevance in the community and allow us to keep up with the times, and keep up with what this community needs to access quality library services.”
Brattleboro Memorial Hospital received $4.8 million from Read, and they’re not sure how they’ll utilize the donation. "This is a substantial amount of money for the hospital to receive," Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Director of Development and Marketing, Gina Pattison, said. "We are very appreciative of what Mr. Read left. It's pretty incredible. This is not something that happens on a regular basis.”
Read cut his own firewood well into his 90s and read the Wall Street Journal every day.
"He had two lifelong hobbies: Investing and cutting wood," Read's attorney, Laurie Rowell said.
"The generous bequests to the Brooks Library and Brattleboro Memorial Hospital attest to his skills at investing. The well-stocked woodpile in his garage attests to his love of cutting wood.”