Thrifty Social Worker Wills $1.3 Million to Charity

April 16, 2009 06:00 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
A loyal school social worker who spent decades in service quietly amassed a personal fortune that has offered many a lesson in frugality and charity.

Woman Saved More Than $1 Million

The St. Louis probate court recently received the will of Jane M. Buri, a social worker who spent almost 40 years working in public schools, to distribute her personal fortune of approximately $1.3 million, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Buri was unwaveringly committed to her work, striving especially to keep kids in school. She tracked them to their homes, brought truants back to teachers and found kids clothes, food and shoes when needed, the paper wrote.

She died of heart disease a year ago. In her will, she divided her estate among numerous friends, relatives and charities, who will be receiving checks soon.
But people aren’t entirely sure how the woman, who never married or had children, built such a personal fortune.

They do know she was a very frugal person, driving a 30-year-old car, watching an “ancient TV” and living in a house that was purchased for cash in 1969.

It’s not that Buri saved her money so she could give it to others later, the Post-Dispatch noted. She was a child of the Great Depression, and “spending more just didn’t occur to her.” At her first job, she made $3,800 a year.

One of her co-workers said Buri wasn’t cheap—she traveled to Europe and sometimes ate out three times a day—but she just never bought what she felt wasn’t necessary.

“And she left for others what she didn’t need,” the paper concluded.
Cases similar to Buri’s have cropped up in other places around the country. In 2008, a small Methodist congregation in Indiana was surprised to receive a $2 million gift from farmer John Ferguson, who died in 2007.

Ferguson built his wealth through stock and energy investments, “lived in a mobile home surrounded by rusty farm equipment,” and wore faded overalls, The Associated Press stated.

In 2005, the AP told a story of Whitlowe Green, a retired Texas school teacher “who was so frugal that he bought expired meat and secondhand clothing.” He left a $2.1 million gift to Prairie View A&M. It was “the school’s largest gift from a single donor.”

Green made $28,000 a year as a teacher. Family and friends were surprised to learn of the donation after his death. One of Green’s relatives noted, “He was a very meager person. I didn’t think he had a million.”

Prairie View is a “historically black university,” according to the AP. Another relative stated, “I remember him saying, ‘I’m going to help black children get an education.’ He did it.”

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Related Topic: Practicing frugal living

Frugal living seems filled with sacrifices,” writes Sara Noel of Frugal Village, but it does have benefits.

“The thing I love is not living paycheck to paycheck! That to me is a big improvement,” Noel quoted one reader as saying. “We used to wonder how we would make it, and now all the bills are paid on time and we have plenty of groceries and extras and still have money!”

In addition to feeling better about the balance in your bank account, Noel says consumers can learn to better evaluate wants and needs, feel confident for knowing how to cut costs and experience less stress.

Families are taking various steps to cut their personal expenses. Beth Rogers told The Associated Press that eliminating a paid housekeeper, eating out, dry cleaning costs and lawn maintenance services has saved her and her family approximately $10,000 a year.

As the Rogers family and others make adjustments like these, the do-it-yourself market is starting to blossom.

“We sense that people kind of want to get their hands dirty,” Home Depot Chief Financial Officer Carol Tome stated. “There’s something to be said about playing in the dirt right now when you’re feeling miserable about everything else.”

Reference: Web Guide to Personal Finance


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