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The Secret Millionaire

The Secret Millionaire

| February 29, 2024

Written by Hannah Morgan, Assistant of Eric Wasson

What if your next door neighbor, an elderly woman living in a one-bedroom cottage, turned out to be a millionaire? 

This was what happened in Lake County, Illinois. Grace Elizabeth Groner was the woman's name, and she not only was a secret millionaire; she left over seven million dollars to her community after she passed. Her kindness has continued to leave a lasting impact on all who are touched by it. 

Her Background 

Grace was born in 1909, along with her twin, Gladys, to a humble farming family in rural Illinois. They lost their parents in 1912, and were adopted by the Andersons, a prominent family in their community. They were from then on considered a part of the Anderson family. 

The Andersons paid for the girls to attend boarding school, and then Lake Forest College. For many years, Grace lived with an elderly member of the Anderson family, Ann Findlay, in a small apartment above a movie theater the Andersons owned. 

Grace became a secretary at a company called Abbott Laboratories, where she stayed for four decades. In 1935, when Grace was twenty-six, she bought three sixty-dollar shares of Abbott stock. This was where her wealth began. Throughout the years, these shares split multiple times, and she reinvested the dividends. 

Meanwhile, she lived a frugal life. She ended up living in a one-bedroom cottage that was willed to her and shopped at rummage sales. She donated to charities anonymously and enjoyed travelling, but lived far below her means. Her attorney said of her, "She enjoyed other people, and every friend she had was a friend for who she was. They weren't friends for what she had."

The Grace Elizabeth Groner Foundation 

When Grace passed away at 100 years of age, she left her wealth to her alma mater, Lake Forest College. It was important for her that young people receive opportunities to learn, travel, and give back to the community. She lived her life in service to others, and wanted to encourage students to do the same. 

What We Learn

Grace's example shows that you can live a happy, fulfilled life while keeping things simple. Things that are usually associated with wealth, such as a big house, a fancy car, or public attention weren't what mattered to her. She used what she had to help others, usually anonymously. 

It makes you think, doesn't it? It brings up questions like, What really matters in my life? Am I doing all I can to help others? Do I care too much about "keeping up with the Joneses"?

I appreciated Grace's story, because so often investor success stories have their focus on the wrong thing. Grace knew what was important and protected that, and she's an example we can all learn from. 


The Groner Foundation