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12/02/2013 10:42 am ET

Jack MacDonald, Secret Millionaire, Wore Threadbare Clothes, Left Fortune To Charity

A man in Washington state stunned area charities after bequeathing close to $200 million of his life's fortune to three Seattle organizations. The gift was even more surprising given the fact that most people who knew the frugal Jack MacDonald had no idea he was a multimillionaire.

The coupon-clipping MacDonald wore threadbare clothes and used public transportation to keep his finances secret, reports The Seattle Times. Only his closest friends and family knew that his carefully researched investments had netted him a huge fortune.

“He liked his free coffee, and liked his privacy,” said Bob Anderson, director of the Horizon House Senior Living Community, where MacDonald resided, per KING 5 News. Anderson said he never knew MacDonald was harboring such a remarkable secret.

After the 98-year-old MacDonald died in September, however, much of that nest egg was donated to charity, with MacDonald leaving a combined total of $187.6 million to the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, the University of Washington School of Law and the Salvation Army.

“I thought of him in many ways as a gentle giant,” Doug Picha, president of the Seattle Children’s Foundation and longtime friend of MacDonald's, told the Times. “He was tall, very shy, very understated, humble. You would never have known that he had great wealth.”

The three lucky organizations will receive the income earned by MacDonald's charitable trust each year, according to a statement released by Seattle Children's. The gift was also the largest single donation in the medical center's history.

“Jack’s gift is an inspiration to all of us. It is one of the largest ever to a children’s hospital. And it is the largest single gift in support of pediatric research,” Picha said in the statement. “It is transformational not only in what it will do to help us find more cures and better treatments, but also by forcing each of us personally to reflect on the legacy we would like to leave.”

The Times notes that over the years, MacDonald had given smaller donations to other charities and causes, including a total of $150,000 to the small Canadian village where his grandfather lived after emigrating from Scotland.

The three institutions named in MacDonald's will were carefully chosen because of their significance either to MacDonald or to his parents, reports the Times.

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