Saturday, September 30, 2006

Teacher Leaves Millions to Charity

I would like to introduce you to Roberta Langtry. She was an elementry school teacher in Toronto and spent many years helping autisitc children. She never married, no children, and lived a very simple life in a one-storey house in East Toronto.

Roberta died last year and it is only because of her death have I learned about her. I was struck by the headline of "Teacher kept riches secret, then left charity $4.3-million".

Her full net worth will likely never be known, but her estate executor, the great nephew of Sir Robert Borden has revealed that she made a number of large anonymous donations to individuals "down on their luck". She was never suspected to be the one that gave a cheque to someone for 25,000 because of the simple life she lived. She drove an old Volvo.

Yet even in middle age she was already well off because in 1973 she approached Mr. Borden, then an executive at a Bay Street stockbroker, and asked him to manage her $500,000 in savings, a sizable sum in the days before high inflation eroded the value of money.

Mr. Borden, whose great uncle was the former Prime Minister of the same name, remembers Miss Langtry made a prescient investment call by buying shares of IBM in either the 1940s or 1950s, and kept the stock in the high-tech giant until she died.

But other than that, Mr. Borden said he had her put most of her money into safe bond investments and solid Canadian blue-chip stocks, such as those of the banks and insurance companies, that appreciated nicely over the decades.

Miss Langtry had a bit of a gambler's streak and sometimes wanted to invest in companies involved in anti-pollution work, but Mr. Borden said he had her limit these more risky ventures to a conservative 10 per cent of her portfolio.

Roberta Landtry is leaving the Nature Conservancy of Canada 4.3 million. The NCC is a charity that buys environmentally sensitive land and turns it into nature reserves.
When staff got the call they were listed in the will, they at first believed it was a mistake.

But there was no mistake, and Miss Langtry's legacy is being feted by the conservancy, which is issuing a news release on the donation today. It plans to use the money to buy more wetlands and help safeguard the Oak Ridges Moraine, a pastoral rural area north of Toronto that Miss Langtry held dear and is the subject of large-scale conservation efforts in the province.

Miss Langtry was passionate about the environment, but didn't seek recognition for donations she made to the conservancy while she was alive. Starting in 1988, she gave about $5,000 to $10,000 a year.

She declined invitations to events the organization held to showcase properties it helped preserve from development. Ms. Kim said she would, however, call the conservancy if she thought mailings to donors were too glossy. Miss Langtry called this a waste of money and wanted something more plain.

This woman is an inspiration to us all. It is a shame no one heard about her until after her death.

Source: Globe and Mail


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