An elderly Seattle man who lived a frugal lifestyle with holes in his clothes and coupons in his pockets has left behind a record-shattering $188 million in his will to three Washington institutions.
As many are now learning, 98-year-old Jack MacDonald was never poor but was in fact a secret millionaire.
“Jack went out of his way to look poor, partly because he didn’t want to be badgered by people who wanted money,” his stepdaughter Regen Dennis told the Seattle Times of the secret life-long philanthropist.
MacDonald’s astonishing donations following his death in September mark the largest philanthropic gift in Washington State this year, the Times reports. It’s also the sixth-largest in the country for 2013 so far.
Though he had no children of his own, 40% of his charitable trust will go to Seattle Children’s Research Institution — with about $3.75 million to be donated the first year.
“He felt really good about what he was doing with his money,” said Dennis, “and our family feels good about what he’s doing with his money.”
After working 30 years as an attorney for the Veterans Administration, and three years prior in the Army while serving in the South Pacific, Dennis says her stepfather really made it big by investing in stocks.
After his parents’ passing, he wisely invested funds left to him from their Seattle company, MacDonald Meat Co., which took off.
Throughout the years he donated $536,000 to the Children’s Research Institute. He also donated $150,000 to the village of Elora, Canada, where his grandfather lived after emigrating from Scotland.
The village was able to purchase an ice rink and build a town hall thanks to his generous funds.
“It doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but we’re not a big town,” Steve Thorning, who served on the town council, told the Times. “Without his contribution we wouldn’t have been able to build (the town hall).”
In his obituary he wrote with Dennis a few years prior, MacDonald describes himself as “a private man who lived frugally, clipping coupons and seeking bargains.”
MacDonald married late in his 50s to Mary Katherine Moore, a widow with two grown children.
He described his late wife as the one who “brightened his life with joy and adventure.”
They traveled outside the country and Moore threw dinner parties at their modestly sized home, described by his stepdaughter as simply “comfortable” and having “a beautiful garden.”
In 1997 the couple moved into a retirement community and about three years later Moore died.
After her death, MacDonald would stay busy watching his stocks, exercising every day, and taking walks or riding the public bus to wherever he needed to go. That included visits to the Seattle Children’s Hospital, where he delighted in hearing stories of the patients’ recoveries, Doug Picha, president of the Seattle Children’s Foundation, told the Times.
“He was drawn to the patient stories,” said Picha. “There was a lot of hope in those stories, and that really resonated with him.”
MacDonald was buried in his family plot in Ontario, Canada, according to his obituary, which reported there being no memorial at his request.
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