Wagswoofs – Geoffrey Holt lived a simple yet intriguing life as the caretaker of a mobile home park in Hinsdale, New Hampshire. Despite his unassuming nature, he made a significant impact in his community.
Holt could often be spotted by the residents of the town in his worn-out clothes as he rode his lawn mower or made a quick trip to the convenience store. He would sometimes be parked on the main road, engrossed in reading the newspaper or simply watching the cars go by.
While he occasionally did odd jobs for others, Holt was mainly a homebody. Although he had prior experience teaching driver’s education to high school students, he had decided to give up driving himself and instead relied on a bicycle or mower for transportation. His mobile home in the park was notably sparse, with no television or computer to speak of. In fact, the legs of his bed even went through the floor.
Edwin “Smokey” Smith, Holt’s former employer and closest friend, said that Holt appeared content with his life despite not having many desires.
Earlier this year, Holt passed away and left behind a surprising secret: he was a millionaire. More surprisingly, he generously donated his fortune to the community of 4,200 people.
In his will, he left clear and concise instructions that $3.8 million should be given to the town of Hinsdale for the betterment of the community’s education, health, recreation, and culture.
Steve Diorio, the chairperson of the town selectboard, expressed his surprise at the level of success achieved by Holt. Despite occasionally waving at Holt from his car, Diorio had no idea that Holt was so accomplished. Diorio acknowledged that Holt did not have much family but still chose to leave his assets to the town where he resided. Diorio described the bequest as a significant and generous gift that will benefit the town tremendously.
Hinsdale, a quaint town nestled between Vermont and Massachusetts along the Connecticut River, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and small business owners. The town owes its name to Ebenezer Hinsdale, a brave officer who constructed a fort and a grist mill during the French and Indian Wars. Visitors can explore Hinsdale’s historic house, which was built in 1759, and also pay a visit to the country’s oldest continuously operating post office, established in 1816. With ample opportunities for hiking and fishing, the money can go a long way in Hinsdale.
Local officials were notified in September about the availability of funds, but no formal discussions have been held yet regarding the allocation of the money. Some residents have suggested various ideas for utilizing the funds, including upgrading the town hall clock, restoring historic buildings, or purchasing a new ballot counting machine in honor of Holt, who was known for his dedication to voting. Additionally, there has been talk of setting up an online drivers’ education course as another potential use for the funds.
Through the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, organizations can apply for grants via a trust and access approximately $150,000 annually from the interest.
According to Kathryn Lynch, the town administrator, Hinsdale plans to use the funds left behind by Mr. Holt in a frugal manner.
In recent years, Holt’s close friend Smith, who was also the executor of Holt’s estate, became aware of his substantial fortune.
When he was alive, Holt had a range of hobbies and interests that kept him busy. He had an impressive collection of model cars and train sets that filled his rooms and even extended into a shed. In addition, he enjoyed reading books about history, with a particular interest in Henry Ford and World War II. Holt also had an extensive record collection that included Handel and Mozart. Despite his passing in June at the age of 82, his legacy lives on through his beloved collections.
Holt, a former production manager at a nearby grain mill that shut down, was known by Smith to be an avid investor. He would often seek out peaceful spots near streams to peruse financial publications and make investment decisions.
During a conversation with Smith, Holt revealed that his investments were performing exceptionally well, exceeding his expectations. However, he was uncertain about how to handle the surplus of funds. In response, Smith proposed that he consider giving back to the town.
He expressed his surprise, saying, “I was taken aback when I learned that the entire amount was given to the town.”
According to Smith, Holt invested in a mutual fund focused on communications in the early days before cellphones.
Alison Holt, the 81-year-old sister of Holt, residing in Laguna Woods, California, shared that her brother had a keen interest in investing and their father had taught them the value of not wasting money and investing wisely.
According to her, Geoffrey struggled with a learning disability – dyslexia – which made writing and spelling a real challenge for him. Despite this, he was intelligent in many other ways. However, being the son of a professor, he may have felt the pressure to live up to his father’s expectations and felt like a disappointment. Perhaps, saving up all that money was his way of competing and proving himself.
Growing up in Springfield, Massachusetts, she and her brother were raised by their parents, Lee Holt and Margaret Holt. Lee Holt was an English and world literature teacher at American International College, while Margaret Holt was an artist and the daughter of a Shakespearean scholar. Margaret Holt was also known for absorbing the values of the Quaker Society of Friends, as mentioned in her obituary. Both parents were passionate about peace activism and eventually relocated to Amherst, where they participated in a weekly town vigil focused on addressing peace and justice issues at both the local and global levels.
Geoffrey’s children received excellent education as well. He sent them to boarding schools, and his son, Geoffrey, attended Marlboro College in Vermont, a school that allowed students to design their own degree plans. Geoffrey graduated from the college in 1963 and served in the U.S. Navy before obtaining a master’s degree in 1968 from the same college his father taught at. Although he briefly taught social studies at Thayer High School in Winchester, New Hampshire, he eventually landed a job at the mill where he currently works. In addition to his teaching experience, Geoffrey also has a background in driver’s education.
During bedtime, Alison fondly recalls their father reading Russian novels to them. It was amazing how Geoffrey could recollect all those lengthy names of multiple characters.
According to his sister, a retired librarian, it seemed as though he took a cue from his upbringing, which was characterized by strictness and frugality. His parents were known to keep a vegetable garden, maintain a low thermostat, and accept donated clothing for their children from a friend.
According to her, Geoffrey was a man of simple pleasures. He didn’t require much to find happiness and preferred to avoid being in the spotlight. In fact, he even turned down a promotion at the mill that would have required him to move, possibly due to his fear of change.
According to her, he had a primary objective in life, which was to ensure that nothing drew attention. She recalled that he would often caution her, saying, “Or else, you may land in trouble.”
Money was not a topic of frequent discussion between them, although he frequently inquired about her needs.
She expressed her sorrow saying, “I feel sad that he didn’t allow himself to indulge even just a little bit.”
Despite facing difficult circumstances, he never expressed any grievances. Additionally, he was not always alone as he had been married briefly when he was younger, though the marriage ended in divorce. Later on, he developed a close relationship with a woman at the mobile home park and eventually moved in with her. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2017.
Alison and Geoffrey did not have any children.
Jim Ferry, a therapist, worked with Holt after he suffered from a stroke a few years ago. Ferry described Holt as a thoughtful, intellectual, and genteel person. However, Holt was not at ease with pursuing the academic path that his family members had taken.
After suffering from a stroke, Holt faced difficulties with mobility which prevented him from being able to ride his beloved lawn mower, something he greatly missed.
According to Ferry, lawn mowing was a source of relaxation for Geoff. It was a way for him to connect with the great outdoors and feel at ease. Ferry believes that for Geoff, mowing lawns was a form of service to the people he cared about the most, which were the individuals living in the trailer park. He had a fondness for these individuals because they were not pretentious or fancy in any way.
The gift has raised the hopes of the residents of Hinsdale that their town will gain more attention.
Ann Diorio, a member of the local planning board and wife of Steve Diorio, describes the location as a neglected area in New Hampshire. However, she hopes that by drawing attention to it, this will help put it on the map.