About 70 years ago, Russ Gremel bought a $1,000 worth of Walgreens stock. After seven decades, his money grown into millions! What’s more amazing is that he decided to give his entire fortune to help protect the wildlife.
One time, Russ’s brother convinced him to invest in pharmacies, telling him that “all people will always need medicine and women will always need cosmetics.”
Russ liked the idea so he picked a local Chicago chain, Walgreens, and bought $1,000-worth of stocks which converts to about 20 shares. Over the last seven decades, this one grand turned into more than $2 million – 27,648 shares!
Russ is now 98 years old and he wanted nothing more but to donate his entire fortune to the Illinois Audubon Society. He wanted his money to be used to establish a new 40-acre wildlife refuge – The Gremel Wildlife Sanctuary.
During his interview with Chicago Tribune, he said, “I never let anybody know I had that kind of money because my friends were too important to me. And then I got to be about 95, I said, ‘What am I gonna do with this money? Give it to my relatives and ruin their lives?’”
For 95 years, Russ lived in the same brick bungalow, the same house that his parents moved their family into when he was just four years old. Back in the day, there were horses and oil lamps, but until now, the streets still remain quiet and pleasant for him. He loved sitting on the porch, smoking his pipe, and wave at his neighbors who are passing by.
But this simple life is not boring for Russ.
He is a World War II veteran and he served in Hawaii, on the island of Tinian and Washington D.C. He revealed that when he was a teenager, he would hop on trains and venture the Midwest to Yellowstone National Park on his own. When he graduated from Northwestern University Law School, he practiced law until he retired at 45.
He told himself one time, “You’re not going to die at 70 years of age and say, ‘What if?’”
This year, he decided to donate his Walgreens fortune to Audobon instead of doing so in his will. A decision made that even if he passes away soon, he will do it without regrets. He explained, “Why not give it to them now when I can see the property they’re buying? And I have the pleasure and enjoyment of going there and seeing it. Why not enjoy it?”
Talking of the society he said, “They’ll do some good in this world. That’s what money is for. If you can’t do good with it, don’t have it.”
Russ never married or had children. He spent 60 years of his life being a Boy Scout scoutmaster. He lived a very simple life. He never wanted nice cars or go on luxury trips. After he lived through the Great Depression, he learned to live to be a simple man. In fact, he believes that life does not have to be extravagant to make a person happy. He also shared that he doesn’t eat fancy foods. A simple stew and oatmeal can make him a happy man.