He was an old man who they waved to as they passed but they didn’t even know his name… His secret was revealed after his death! “That’s the one you’d never guess.”

Jeffrey Holt was a familiar face to those living in the town of Hinsdale, New Hampshire, USA.

Holt spent most of his day sitting on his bright orange lawnmower, watching everyone go by. Sometimes they would wave to him. Holt sometimes responded the same way. But other than that, he was an inconspicuous man. According to those who knew him, it was his choice to keep a low profile.

He was a shy and quiet man. He was content to spend his days in the garden where his ready-made home was. He lived a modest, even subsistence, life. So much so that he manages to remain unnoticed even in Hinsdale, a town of 4,000 where almost everyone knows each other.

But this man had a big secret. He managed to keep this secret until his death.

“That’s the one you’d never guess.”

Holt died last June at the age of 82. After his death, it was revealed that Holt had a fortune of $3.8 million and left all of his fortune to the city of Hinsdale.

The announcement of the will in September came as a great shock to the people of Hinsdale. An event that could only happen in novels or movies has become a reality. The city’s most mysterious resident was also its richest philanthropist.

“I immediately thought of those famous stories: The millionaire who lives next door; the person you would never guess,” Hinsdale Local Director Katherine Lynch told The Washington Post.

Speaking to the New York Times, Lynch said: “He was sitting on the side of Highway 119 and watching the traffic. People didn’t know who he was. I mean, personally, I didn’t even know his name.”

Edwin Smith, also known as “Smokey”

He later settled in the city where he lived.

According to his close friend Edwin Smith, Holt was born in Indianapolis and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was a graduate of American International College. His father, Lee Holt, was also an English professor there.

Holt served in the Navy for a time and moved to Hinsdale in the 1960s. He first worked as a social sciences and leadership teacher and then managed a grain mill. After his retirement, he settled in the park where there were prefabricated houses. Smith, who is also the owner of the park, stated that Holt was responsible for repairs, maintenance and gardening there.

Smith said they had known each other since the 1970s, but after Holt moved to the park, they gradually became friends thanks to casual conversations they had outside the door. “Holt was a shy guy, and it took a while,” Smith said. To keep people warm.”

It was like a miniature amusement train

Over time, Smith discovered something important: Behind Holt’s introverted demeanor lies a hobbyist with a passion for diecast cars and miniature trains. He was especially knowledgeable about automobile history. He had a growing collection of model trains and cars at his home and in his nearby workshop.

“He would be very proud of it,” said Smith, 78, who was born and raised in Hinsdale. “He would ask, ‘What year is this car from?’” “When you asked him, he would tell you in detail about the year and why it was produced the way it was,” he said.

Most people living in Hinsdale were not aware of this side of Holt. Because the old man lived a large part of his time out of sight. According to Smith, his life was very modest except for his collections. As he got older, he became less mobile due to health problems, and the death of his girlfriend, with whom he lived, in 2017 made him more withdrawn.

His sister explained his philosophy of life

He spent most of his time at home working on his model cars or trudging through the trees in the garden with his lawnmower.

He enjoyed sitting on the banks of the road or stream that bordered the park and observing his surroundings, and he always wore the same old clothes. He had an old car, but he rarely used it, so he went to the nearby supermarket with his lawnmower.

Holt’s sister, Allison Holt, who lives in California, also told the Washington Post that her brother has always been a humble and quiet person since his childhood. She added:

“He told me that his philosophy in life is: ‘Make sure no one notices you.’ Don’t stand out, don’t do anything, so no one can criticize you…”

The prefab house where Holt lives

Only a few people know that he was very rich

Few people know that Holt was so rich that he could change his life in an instant if he wanted to. One of them was Smith. Around 2000, Holt told Smith that some of the investments he made early in his career were yielding very good returns.

Although this statement surprised Smith, it did not surprise him much. Because Holt regularly reads The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Forbes. Therefore, it was very reasonable for him to make smart investments.

Smith said the foundation of Holt’s wealth was the grain mill he ran in the 1980s. Holt invested the money he received from the sale of the plant in Brattleboro in various funds and only withdrew money from his investment accounts to pay taxes.

It was a strange lifestyle, but when Smith saw the happiness that Holt’s simple habits brought, he agreed with his friend. Smith explained this situation in the following words: “He loved his own world, and he liked to control his life. He could do that because he had a little life.” He added: “One couldn’t be sure if he actually had money because he never bragged about anything. When Jeffrey found out his investment account had reached seven figures, it didn’t change at all.”

Holt’s undergraduate degree

“This was his house”

Holt, who had a brief marriage in the 1960s, had no children. His sister did not want him to leave his inheritance to her because she did not need the money. Smith stated that Holt, who had not met much of his extended family, decided to leave his money to Hinsdale after speaking with his brother, and said, “What else can you do? This was his house.”

This decision revealed another side of Holt that he rarely showed: Holt was a very kind and helpful person. For example, Smith said, because he was a gardener, he would mow his neighbors’ lawns and weed their yards. He also timed his help to the city so as not to put himself in the spotlight.

Holt, who suffered a stroke in September 2021, moved to a nursing home in 2022 as his health deteriorated and died there in June. After his death, Smith was appointed Holt’s executor. After waiting a while on the advice of lawyers, Smith finally transferred $3.8 million to a New Hampshire charity in September.

Holt spent most of his time on the banks of Ash Swamp Creek.

He made the decision more than 20 years ago

In fact, it became clear in 2001 that Holt’s legacy would be carried on here. Smith had advised Holt to contact an attorney and invest the money in something the people of Hinsdale would remember. Holt then contacted the foundation, notified authorities of his intention and asked how the money would be spent.

“We have donors who transfer their assets during their lifetime into funds for use after they die,” Melinda Mosier, one of the foundation’s directors, told the New York Times. “Stories like Jeffrey Holt’s are the heart and soul of our community.”

Mosier continued: “What was unique about Holt was that he kept his donation private. He was a very humble person. He wasn’t looking for attention or appreciation, he just wanted to donate and make our city a better place.”

“It’s like a lottery event.”

Lynch stated that he was very surprised when he learned the facts from Smith, saying, “You feel like you won the lottery. Things like this never happen in Hinsdale.”

Hinsdale residents were also surprised to hear about the $3.8 million donation and the benefactor. City Council President Stephen Diorio said his jaw dropped when he learned that the person who waved at him as he passed was a millionaire. “This is an incredibly wonderful gift to our little city,” he said. “No matter how you look at it, we are not a rich city, and this money is going to make a big difference.” “.

Lynch and Diorio said town leaders are currently trying to determine where the money will be spent. Holt’s will stipulated that the money be spent on education, entertainment, health, and cultural initiatives in the city. “With money, we can fix the clock in the town square or paint City Hall,” Lynch said. “But just like Holt, we’ll spend that money sparingly.”


“He would have been embarrassed, but he would have been happy, too.”

Smith suggested that the town, where ballots are still counted by hand, purchase a vote-counting machine in memory of Holt, who always goes to the polls every election.

“Jeff was very sensitive about voting. This machine could be a benefit to the city. I’m hesitant about what expenses would come out of voters’ pockets, but Jeff’s inheritance could be spent on it. That would be an item outside Jeff’s duties.” menu,” Smith said. Diorio also said they’re considering naming a place in town after Holt.

While authorities try to make a decision, Holt’s story has already spread beyond Hinsdale’s borders. The donation, which the Brattleboro Reformer newspaper first listed on the agenda in October, has been featured across the United States and in numerous foreign publications, thanks to an Associated Press story last week.

What would Holt say to this news if he were still alive? Smith also answered this question: “I think he would be embarrassed, but he would also be happy that people appreciate what he did.”

(Tags for translation)Jeffrey Holt

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