Ronald Read, a former gas station attendant and janitor, was so frugal that he would hold his coat together using safety pins. He would also cut and gather his own firewood and hated making unnecessary expenses and wasting anything.
Besides his knack for living frugally, the Vermont man, who worked until he was 76 years old and died at 92 last year, also had a talent for picking stocks, which was only revealed after he died when he bequeathed $6 million to a local library and hospital.
Read, who is known for his flannel shirt and baseball cap, may not have looked like a millionaire because he did not show any hint of having a sizable fortune when he was still alive.
His attorney, Laurie Rowell, even related how he would sometimes park far away when he visits her in the office so he would not have to pay for the meter. He also drove a second-hand Toyota Yaris.
"You'd never know the man was a millionaire," Rowell said. "The last time he came here, he parked far away in a spot where there were no meters so he could save the coins."
According to his friends and family, the only clue that Read was quietly amassing a fortune of $8 million was his habit of reading the Wall Street Journal. Rowell said that the investments Read made substantially grew over the years.
"I was tremendously surprised," said Read's friend Stepson Phillip Brown from Somersworth in New Hampshire. "He was a hard worker, but I don't think anybody had an idea that he was a multimillionaire."
Rowell also related that before Read's death on Jun. 2, 2014, his only indulgence was to eat breakfast at a local coffee shop, where someone once footed the bill without his knowledge because of the impression that he did not have the means to pay for his meal.
A hospital and library will now benefit from Read's frugal living and knack for picking stocks. He bequeathed $4.8 million to the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and $1.2 million to the Brooks Memorial Library, the largest each of these institutions have received. Read also made other smaller bequests.
Rowell said that Read left the Dummerston Historical Society with an antique Edison phonograph along with dozens of recording drums.
The frugal millionaire worked at a gas station for 25 years then as janitor for 17 years.