Everyone loves a good mystery, and nowhere do we see that more than in the myriads of thrillers and detective stories that fill the bestseller lists.
Sometimes, though, just reading about ordinary folks in the newspaper can lead to stories just as riveting.
Consider Raymond Suckling, a World War II veteran and engineer from Sewickley, Pennsylvania. To his friends and neighbors, he was simply a retired engineer who enjoyed the modest fruits of his hard work in simple ways, such as fast food and military history.
But just before he died in 2014 at the age of 93, Suckling shocked the world. How?
He left a donation of $37.1 million to The Pittsburgh Foundation, making it the second-largest gift the nonprofit had ever received.
“No one knew that he was a man of such means,” said Buddy Hallett, one of the children of Betty Hallett, a now-deceased woman who kept Suckling company for years. “He loved White Castle hamburgers, drove a Subaru, and wore sneakers with Velcro.
“The only hint we had was that when we went out, Raymond always wanted to pay for everything. Others in his situation might have chosen a more extravagant lifestyle.”
It wasn’t as though Suckling achieved his fortune through extraordinary means. True, he’d never married, had no children, and received an inheritance from his parents.
But he simply lived frugally, squirreling away much of his pay, and made several wise investments. The end result was a sum that would benefit the Sewickley area for years to come.
Thanks to Suckling, The Pittsburgh Foundation will provide annual distributions of $500,000 to the Sewickley Public Library, the Sewickley Valley Hospital Foundation, and its own anti-poverty initiatives.
It’s no exaggeration to say that donations of this magnitude have the ability to mold future generations.
“Gifts of this magnitude are always very thoughtfully made,” The Pittsburgh Foundation President and CEO Maxwell King said while announcing the gift.
“They serve as powerful testaments to the community foundation model and the compact between donors and staff that ensures their intentions will be honored beyond their lifetimes.”
Despite the impressiveness of Suckling’s fiscal graciousness, it isn’t what he’ll be primarily remembered for among his friends and neighbors.
Rather, memories of his generosity and spirit are what will abide.
“He did not have his own family, but he loved homecooked meals and playing with our kids, who called him Uncle Ray,” said Barbara Hallett, Betty Hallett’s daughter. “He especially loved ‘Mario Brothers’ video games and playing with Legos — that was the engineer in him.”
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