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98-Year-Old Donates $2 Million In Stock To 395-Acre Wildlife Refuge

PHOTO: Ninety-eight-year-old Russ Gremel of Chicago, Ill. speaks about his decision to donate more than $2 million to the Audubon Society to establish a wildlife refuge, June 1, 2017, at his home in Chicago.

By Amanda Froelich Truth Theory

Approximately 70 years ago, a young Russ Gremel purchased $1,000 of stock in the Walgreens pharmacy chain. At the time, he figured it was a good investment because makeup, medicine and the like would always be necessary. As it turns out, he was right!

Now 98-years-old, Gremel can claim he attained millionaire status as the stock ended up being worth more than $2 million. Rather than hoard his fortune, he recently donated all of the stock to the Illinois Audubon Society. There, it will be put to good use in the 395-acre Gremel Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Amboy, Illinois.

Thanks to the generous donation from Gremel and a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, the Illinois Audubon Society was able to purchase the land which will preserve 200 bird species, rare turtles and over 400 plant species. Reportedly, Gremel considered leaving the stock to the Illinois Audubon Society in his will. However, he wanted to see the property they’d buy with it and the wetlands that would be protected.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Gremel, who has lived in the same Jefferson Park bungalow all his life, says he doesn’t need a lot of money. He commented, ”I’m a very simple man. I never let anybody know I had that kind of money.”

And a simple man he is. Gremel prefers oatmeal and stew to “fancy foods” and hasn’t invested in a new car in twenty-five years. He grew to be this way as he never had a wife or children to support — nor did he have a mortgage. In fact, he lives in the same house he settled into with his family at four years of age. A lot has changed, but “it’s still the same quiet street,” he says

Gremel, who grew up hiking and camping and was later a scoutmaster with the Boy Scouts of America for 60 years, considers nature to be very important. Had anyone else been in his shoes, they might have blown the money on a yacht or world travels. However, Gremel believes that money is a tool to improve the world. In a video he says: “That’s what money is for. If you can’t do good with it, don’t have it.”

Jim Herkert, Illinois Audubon Society Executive Director, told the Chicago Tribune:

“It’s allowing us to protect a really valuable and important piece of property and fulfill one of Russ’ wishes that we could find a place where people could come out and experience and enjoy nature the way he did as a kid.”

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Image Credit: Russ Gremel, Chicago Tribune

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