Despite his small fortune, Geoffrey Holt lived very frugally in a mobile home almost devoid of furniture and opted to drive around town on a lawnmower rather than in a car. Until he died, no one knew he was a millionaire.
Residents and administrators of the small town of Hinsdale, New Hampshire recently received a shocking gift after one of its residents died.
Geoffrey Holt, a friendly, unassuming man who could often be seen riding around town on a lawnmower, was actually a multimillionaire — and he’d left his fortune to his adopted hometown upon his death.
“I don’t think anyone had any idea that he was that successful,” said Steve Diorio, chairperson of the town select board in an interview with Associated Press. “I know he didn’t have a whole lot of family, but nonetheless, to leave it to the town where he lived… It’s a tremendous gift.”
Holt grew up in Massachusetts, attended college in Vermont, served in the U.S. Navy, and got his master’s degree before settling in the small New Hampshire town, which has a population of just 4,200.
He worked as a production manager at a grain mill just across the state line in Vermont and eventually managed to save up a bit of money. An avid reader of newspapers, magazines, and financial literature, Holt invested in mutual funds back in the 1980s. Soon, he’d accumulated a fortune.
“I guess you really didn’t know whether he had money or not because he never bragged about anything,” said Edwin Smith, Holt’s friend and former employer, in an interview with The New York Times. “Geoffrey didn’t change when he found out he had seven digits in an investment account.”
Despite his wealth, Holt lived very frugally. He continued to live in the mobile home park where he worked as a caretaker. His home barely had any furniture beyond the necessities — though he did have a rather large collection of model cars and trains, history books, and classical music records.
Holt wasn’t married. He had no children or close family to leave his small fortune to. So he decided to do something different with it.
Back in 2001, he decided that he wanted to leave his money to Hinsdale. He approached the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, giving instructions on how to distribute the money after his death, explaining that he wanted it to be used to fund education, health, recreation, and culture.
“We have a number of people who will set up funds during their lifetime to do something after a lifetime,” said Melinda Mosier, an executive with the organization. “The unique part is that he kept it quiet. He was very unassuming. He just really wanted to give back in a way that was truly about making the community better without any fanfare or recognition on his part.”
In 2021, Holt suffered a stroke, and soon after was moved to an assisted living facility. He died in June 2023.
In the end, Holt left his adopted hometown $3.8 million. The fund will go a long way in the small town, which has an annual budget of $12 million.
It hasn’t been decided yet how the money will be used, but Smith wants to buy the town a voting machine in honor of Holt, who always voted and was passionate about his civic duty. Currently, the town counts votes by hand.
“Geoff was so adamant about voting, and this would help the whole town quite a bit,” Smith said. “I’m not sure it should come out of taxpayer dollars, but it could come from this, and it would cross off one of the things on Geoff’s to-do list.”
Other suggestions have included restoring the town clock, updating the town’s buildings, implementing an online driver’s education course, or funding educational programs for dyslexia, which Holt dealt with throughout his life.
“A story like Geoffrey Holt’s is really the heart and soul of our communities,” Mosier said.
After reading about the man who left his fortune to his town, read about the German widow who left $7.5 million to her neighbors. Or, read about the woman who left her multimillion-dollar inheritance to her seven Persian cats.