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Laguna Woods resident shares memories of brother who surprised town with $4M inheritance

Laguna Woods resident Alison Holt is the sister of the man who surprised his hometown of Hinsdale, New Hampshire, with a $3.8 million inheritance.
(Photo by Mark Rabinowitch)

Alison Holt never in her life thought she’d go viral. The Laguna Woods resident never expected her name to pop up on Google thousands of times, appearing on the websites of news outlets from across the nation, even around the world.

She was especially surprised to see it in the German magazine Der Spiegel and on “some kind of Slavic” site.

That all started in November when her brother, Geoffrey Holt, made the headlines months after his death, and reporters called her for interviews.

Geoffrey Holt stunned his hometown of Hinsdale, New Hampshire, when, after his death in June, it was revealed that he had given his fortune to its coffers – a whopping $3.8 million for Hinsdale, a town of around 4,000 people tucked in the far southwestern corner of the state.

Unbeknownst to townsfolk, Geoffrey Holt, 82, who lived in a trailer, wore threadbare clothes and drove around on a lawn mower, was a savvy investor and had racked up millions.

“Secret multimillionaire who drove lawn mower leaves fortune to his small town,” one headline said.

“Man had no car, no furniture, but died with a big secret,” said another.

Then there was this headline out of  the U.K.: “Secret multimillionaire Geoffrey Holt who wore threadbare clothes and lived in a rundown mobile home with no TV stuns small New Hampshire town of Hinsdale with $3.8M gift after his death.”

Her brother did live a simple and frugal life, Alison Holt, 81, said in an interview in her home in Laguna Woods. She admits that he may have been, well, cheap.

But it wasn’t quite what some of the reports made it out to be, she said.

Yes, he lived in a trailer; it was left to him by a widow he lived with who died in 2017. He liked to putter around the mobile home park, but he was hardly its caretaker, as some reports would have it.

Yes, he drove around on a lawn mower, she said. He did own a car (also left to him by the widow), but he didn’t drive it anymore after he suffered a stroke two years ago. Besides, he had a bad leg and could prop it up on top of the mower.

Sure, his clothes may have been a little threadbare, she said, and he didn’t own a computer.

But the rest of it?

“His friend told me he had five TVs, and he did have a little furniture,” Holt said. “And I don’t know if it was true that the legs of his bed were sticking through the floor.”

But he never went out, she said, and never really did anything, keeping to within a 5-mile radius of his home.

Holt believes her brother lived the way he did perhaps as a result of his strict and frugal upbringing. Their father was “weird about money,” she said, and didn’t believe in frivolous spending, such as for a small bouquet of flowers she once bought for her mom.

“Geoff didn’t require much,” she said, “and he was reasonably content with what he had.”

Still, Holt said she was thoroughly surprised about a lot of the things she read about her brother in those reports.

She was surprised that he had that much money: “Oh, yeah, definitely. I still don’t know where he got it all.”

She knew he was investing – “like the newspapers said, he invested in communication stocks.” (He started that before cellphones came onto the scene.) But she thought he had at most only half of what the reports said – maybe $2 million.

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