96-Year-Old Frugal Secretary Quietly Amasses Fortune, Donates $8.2M After Death


Sylvia Bloom spent 67 years working as a legal secretary for the same law firm until she retired at the age of 96.

During her time there, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton grew to the powerhouse firm that it is today with over 1,200 lawyers and hundreds of staff members.

But Bloom kept a large secret from those closest to her that was only revealed after her death; she had a fortune of over $9 million!

It came as a complete shock to her family due to Bloom’s humble lifestyle. Jane Lockshin, Bloom’s niece and executor of her estate, remembers the moment she discovered the secret fortune.

“I realized she had millions and she had never mentioned a word. I don’t think she thought it was anybody’s business but her own,” she said.

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Bloom paid attention to the investments her bosses would make and then turned around and followed their lead.

“She was a secretary in an era when they ran their boss’s lives, including their personal investments,” Lockshin said. “So when the boss would buy a stock, she would make the purchase for him, and then buy the same stock for herself, but in a smaller amount because she was on a secretary’s salary.”

Bloom grew up during the Great Depression, which gave her a very different outlook on money.

“She was a child of the Depression and she knew what it was like not to have money. She had great empathy for other people who were needy and wanted everybody to have a fair shake,” a human resources executive named Paul Hyams said.

Hyams said that Bloom lived in a rented apartment and took the subway to work on a regular basis.

She wouldn’t even accept lavish gifts. Her only weakness was chocolate; she would accept small amounts of special chocolate only on occasion.

In her will, she donated $8.2 million to various scholarships that help students in need. While her fortune remained a secret until after her death, her heart to help students obtain a decent education was not.

She herself went to public school and even went to evening classes at Hunter College to obtain her degree while working full time. Then in 1947, she joined a new law firm as one their first employees where she stayed until her retirement.

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When Lockshin called David Garza, the executive director of Henry Street Settlement, to tell him the good news she asked him if he was sitting down. “We were all agape, just blown away,” he recalled.

The settlement’s Expanded Horizons College Success program that helps high school students prepare for and succeed in college will receive $6.24 million of Bloom’s fortune.

The other $2 million will be split between Hunter College, her alma mater, and another scholarship fund that has not been announced yet.

Garza called Bloom’s donation “the epitome of selflessness.” Her gift will help many low-income students obtain a college degree. Something that I’m sure would make her heart smile.

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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