A carpenter said to have lived a ‘humble’ existence has changed the lives of 33 people forever after his secret fortune was used to send them all to college.
Dale Schroeder, from Iowa, died in 2005 leaving behind $3 million in savings.
With no wife, children or extended family, Schroeder decided to use his wealth to send strangers to college as he never had the opportunity. The grateful group has since dubbed themselves “Dale’s Kids”.
Schroeder’s act of generosity stunned members of the community who describe him as a ‘blue-collar, lunch pail kind of guy’ who worked at the same company for 67 years.
Friends recalled the carpenter’s ‘frugal’ and hardworking nature to CBS.
“He went to work every day. Worked really hard. Was frugal. Like a lot of Iowans,” said pal Steven Nielsen, “he had church jeans and work jeans.”
Nielson also shared the moment the generous carpenter revealed the extent of his wealth:
He said, I never got the opportunity to go to college. So, I’d like to help kids go to college. Finally, I was curious and I said, ‘How much are we talking about, Dale?’ And he said, ‘Oh, just shy of $3 million.’ I nearly fell out of my chair.
After speaking to a lawyer, the carpenter expressed his wish for his wealth to help ‘small-town kids from Iowa’.
“He wanted to help kids that were like him, that probably would have an opportunity to go to college but for his gift,” Nielsen explained to CBS.
The money has been put to great use.
The 33 strangers, or ‘Dale’s Kids’, who received the money are said to be ‘doctors, therapists, and teachers’ because of Schroeder.
Earlier this month, they were said to have got together to honour the man that changed their lives. They gathered around his old lunch pail ‘as a symbol of his hard work’.
Kira Conrad was one of the teenagers who received college funding.
Conrad, now a therapist, said she broke down in tears once she learned she was going to fulfill her goal.
Speaking toCBS, she explained that without the money she would have never been able to afford further education:
I grew up in a single-parent household and I had three older sisters, so paying for all four of us was never an option.
[It] almost made me feel powerless. Like, I want to do this. I have this goal, but I can’t get there just because of the financial part.
Unlike lengthy college loans, none of the group will have to repay the money.
Yet, there’s just one thing Schroeder asked for in return.
“All we ask is that you pay it forward,” said Nielson. “You can’t pay it back, because Dale is gone, but you can remember him and you can emulate him.”
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L’Oréal Blackett is a freelance journalist, broadcaster, and presenter with a lot of hair and a lot to say. A former digital magazine editor covering women’s issues and local news, she now works for a range of media publications including BBC Radio Manchester, Bumble and of course, UNILAD.