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New Hampshire man had no car and no furniture, but died with a big secret, leaving his town millions

by Gabriel Martinez
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Philanthropy

Geoffrey Holt, a humble caretaker at a Hinsdale, New Hampshire mobile home park, led a modest and intriguing existence. Often seen in worn-out attire, he moved around town on his lawn mower, frequented the local store, and spent time reading newspapers or observing traffic. Despite his past as a driver’s education teacher, he abandoned driving, preferring to use a bicycle and ultimately his mower. His home was sparsely furnished, lacking even basic electronics like a TV or computer. The only notable decor was a bed with legs piercing the floor.

In an old photograph provided by his estate, a young Holt is shown, previously recognized only as a groundskeeper. His death earlier this year revealed a surprising secret: he was a multimillionaire who bequeathed his entire fortune, approximately $3.8 million, to his community of 4,200. His will directed the funds towards education, health, recreation, and culture in Hinsdale.

AP correspondent Donna Warder sheds light on Holt’s frugal lifestyle and generous heart. His close friend and former boss, Edwin “Smokey” Smith, noted Holt’s simple desires. Steve Diorio, the town’s selectboard chair, expressed astonishment at Holt’s wealth and his decision to donate it to Hinsdale, describing it as a “tremendous gift.”

The town, nestled between Vermont and Massachusetts along the Connecticut River, boasts historical significance and scenic natural sites. With the newly acquired funds, residents are considering various improvements, including upgrading the town hall clock and establishing an online driver’s education course. A trust through the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation will manage the money, allowing for annual grants of around $150,000.

Kathryn Lynch, the town administrator, affirmed the intention to use the funds prudently, reflecting Holt’s own financial approach. Holt’s long-time friend, trailer park owner Ed Smith, now a trustee of the fund, recalled Holt’s varied interests, including model car and train collections, historical books, and a vast music record collection. Holt’s investments, often studied near a brook, exceeded his expectations, prompting him to leave his fortune to the town.

Holt’s sister, Alison Holt, reminisced about their childhood and their father’s influence on Geoffrey’s financial habits. Despite his dyslexia, Geoffrey was intellectually gifted and well-educated, attending boarding schools and Marlboro College, followed by a stint in the U.S. Navy and a master’s degree from the college where their father taught. His career included a brief teaching role and a position at a grain mill.

Geoffrey’s lifestyle reflected his upbringing, characterized by simplicity and frugality. His personal life included a brief marriage, a significant relationship with a woman in the mobile home park, and no children. Following a stroke, he worked with therapist Jim Ferry, who described him as thoughtful and intellectual, yet uncomfortable with the academic path pursued by his family.

Holt’s legacy now has the potential to bring greater recognition to Hinsdale, a town often overlooked in New Hampshire. His generosity and the impact of his gift may put this small community more prominently on the map.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Philanthropy

Q: Who was Geoffrey Holt, and what was his background?

A: Geoffrey Holt was a caretaker of a mobile home park in Hinsdale, New Hampshire. He had a modest lifestyle and was known for his frugality. He had worked as a driver’s education teacher and later as a groundskeeper.

Q: What was the secret that Geoffrey Holt had?

A: The secret Geoffrey Holt had was that he was a multimillionaire. Despite his unassuming lifestyle, he had amassed a significant fortune.

Q: What did Geoffrey Holt do with his wealth?

A: Geoffrey Holt left his entire fortune, approximately $3.8 million, to his hometown of Hinsdale, New Hampshire, in his will. The funds were designated to benefit the community in areas such as education, health, recreation, and culture.

Q: How has the town of Hinsdale planned to use the money?

A: There have been discussions about various ways to use the funds, including upgrading the town hall clock, restoring buildings, and possibly establishing an online driver’s education course. Organizations can apply for grants through a trust managed by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

Q: What was Geoffrey Holt’s background and education?

A: Geoffrey Holt had a well-educated background, attending boarding schools, Marlboro College, and serving in the U.S. Navy. He also earned a master’s degree. Despite his dyslexia, he was intellectually gifted and had varied interests, including history and music.

Q: Did Geoffrey Holt have any family or children?

A: Geoffrey Holt had no children, and his family was limited. He had a close relationship with his sister, Alison Holt, who resides in California.

Q: What motivated Geoffrey Holt to be so frugal with his lifestyle?

A: Geoffrey Holt’s frugality may have been influenced by his strict upbringing and a desire not to draw attention to himself. He was content with a simple life and had a strong sense of financial responsibility.

Q: How did Geoffrey Holt’s wealth come to light?

A: Geoffrey Holt’s wealth became known to his close friend and former boss, Edwin “Smokey” Smith, in recent years. Holt confided in Smith about his successful investments, prompting him to consider leaving his fortune to the town.

Q: How will the town of Hinsdale manage the funds left by Geoffrey Holt?

A: The funds will be managed through a trust administered by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. Organizations in the community can apply for grants from the interest generated, which is estimated to be approximately $150,000 annually.

Q: What impact does Geoffrey Holt’s legacy have on the town of Hinsdale?

A: Geoffrey Holt’s generous gift has the potential to bring greater recognition to Hinsdale, a town that is sometimes overlooked. His philanthropy will benefit various aspects of the community, including education, health, recreation, and culture.

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