Man who lived frugally leaves unexpected gift of $3.8 million to small New Hampshire town after death

A man who lived frugally all his life left an unexpected gift of $3.8 million after his death to his small New Hampshire town with less than 4,000 residents.

Geoffrey Holt, who died on June 6, left his fortune to the town of Hinsdale, which borders Massachusetts, Edwin “Smokey” Smith, Holt’s best friend, told CNN in a phone call Tuesday. He moved to New Hampshire in 1968 and lived on his social security checks for the last 15 years of his life, Smith said.

Holt lived in a trailer park in the town, and the kitchen chairs in his mobile home were made of plywood, Smith said.

“Geoffrey lived very simply. And he didn’t require a lot,” said Smith.

The nearly $4 million gift came from a trust fund Holt established in 2001, primarily made in mutual funds accounts, according to Smith.

The town of Hinsdale, New Hampshire - Robert F. Bukaty/AP
The town of Hinsdale, New Hampshire - Robert F. Bukaty/AP

“There was no probate. He had everything set up in trust,” Smith said. “Geoffrey was the first trustee … and then on his passing, I became a successor trustee.”

“When he was younger, much to his dismay, his parents sent him to boarding school,” Smith said, noting Holt wanted to go to public school.

Holt’s fortune was left to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, according to Kathryn Lynch, the town’s administrator. Members of the town, including schools and local organizations, can apply annually for grants for up to $150,000 per year, Lynch said.

A ‘transformational’ gift for a small community

The town is considering various avenues to use the funds from the newfound gift, Lynch said, including possibly buying an electronic voting machine and fixing the town hall clock, which doesn’t work properly.

“First is to get electronic ballots in Mr. Holts honor as he was an avid voter and our Supervisors of the Checklist count ballots by hand at elections,” Lynch said.

In a statement to CNN, Kristen Oliveri, a spokesperson with the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, said Holt’s “generosity has the potential to be transformational for a small community like Hinsdale.”

Oliveri said the funds will be used to support “projects, programs and organizations that provide health, educational, recreational or cultural benefits to the residents of Hinsdale.”

“The Charitable Foundation is honored to help put such generosity into action, and we look forward to helping distribute these funds in the years to come,” she said.

While Smith emphasized his friend would be happy to know his gift is being appreciated and recognized, he noted Holt would also be stressed at the thought of being in the “limelight.”

“He didn’t like to be in the front of the crowd,” Smith said. “He liked to be in the back. And not just as a follower. He did his own thing…”

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