Vermont man who lived simple life leaves millions to local institutions

A Vermont man who owned a coat held together by safety pins and had a habit of foraging firewood also had a knack for picking stocks. His talent became public after his death after he left $6 million to a local library and hospital.

The investments made by 92-year-old Ronald Read "grew substantially" over the years, his attorney Laurie Rowell told The Associated Press.

Read did not give any indication that he had a fortune this large. The man used to work at a gas station and as a janitor and wore a simple flannel shirt and baseball cap.

"He was unbelievably frugal," Rowell said Wednesday. When Read visited her office, "sometimes he parked so far away so he wouldn't have to pay the meter."

Read left $4.8 million to the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and $1.2 million to the Brooks Memorial Library. It was the largest either institution had ever received.

Rowell also said Read owned an antique Edison phonograph with dozens of recording drums thast he left to the Dummerston Historical Society.

"It's really a beautiful machine," said the society's president, Muriel Taylor.

Read was born in the small town of Dummerston in 1921. He was the first in his family to graduate from high school, walking and hitchhiking about 4 miles each way from his home to school in Brattleboro. After military service during World War II, he returned to Brattleboro and worked at a service station for 25 years and then 17 years as a janitor at the local J.C. Penney.

In 1960, he married a woman he met at the service station. She died in 1970.

The Associated Press contributed to this report