Grace Groner's Gift: Lake Forest's Secret Millionaire Kept Fortune Quiet, Always Gave To Others

05/05/2010 05:12 am 05:12:02 | Updated May 25, 2011

Following a surprise $7 million donation left to Lake Forest College by 1931 alumnus and "secret millionaire" Grace Groner, many are wondering about the generous woman who lived so modestly in one of the richest Chicago suburbs.

Groner worked as a secretary at Abbott Laboratories for 43 years--where she made a $180 stock purchase in 1935, the Chicago Tribune reports. She reinvested the dividends over the years, and at the time of her death--at the age of 100--it was worth $7 million.

Groner's lawyer was one of the few people who knew about her fortune, the Tribune reports:

She lived in an apartment for many years before a friend willed her a tiny house in a part of town once reserved for the servants. Its single bedroom could barely accommodate a twin bed and dresser; its living room was undoubtedly smaller than many Lake Forest closets.

Over the years she also made donations to people in need in the community--sometimes anonymously--and previously gave $180,000 to Lake Forest College for a scholarship program.

She also "traveled widely" after her retirement, and wanted those who received her scholarship money to get real-life experience through internships and travel abroad.

"She did not have the (material) needs that other people have," her attorney William Marlatt said. "She could have lived in any house in Lake Forest but she chose not to. ... She enjoyed other people, and every friend she had was a friend for who she was. They weren't friends for what she had."

Read more about Groner's life here.

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