Friday, April 15, 2016

Rural Mass. man surprises neighbors by leaving $1.4 million to local library in honor of wife

A rural Massachusetts library received a surprise $1.4 million donation from the will of a quiet, antisocial man who wanted to honor his late wife, who was an avid user of the library, Andy Rosen reports for The Boston Globe. Anthony Ralys, a retired barber in Athol, population 11,000, was known as "a simple man with spare tastes, he never said much—a peculiar quality for a small-town barber—and guarded his money so carefully it was rumored the couple had never once been out to dinner."

Anthony and his wife Katherine were a "quiet, thrifty couple, who showed virtually no outward signs of wealth," Rosen writes. Relatives say the couple made good investments, mainly in municipal bonds, and were always extremely frugal," which may be an understatement. They kept the same fixtures and furnishings for decades and "Anthony used to make his own neck strips from paper towels and once built a flyswatter out of a coat hanger and a piece of vinyl upholstery." They rarely bought new clothes and often talked about taking a vacation but never did.

Still, no one knew how much money the couple had and the gift to the library was completely unexpected, Rosen writes. Debra Blanchard, who worked at the library for 43 years and retired last year as director, said the will "made it clear the gift was in his wife’s memory, as well as his own" and that money was for “renovations, additions, or building improvements.” Blanchard told Rosen, “I think it’s sweet that it was so important to him because it was so important to her."

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