The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation will allow organizations to request grants through a trust, and draw from the interest of approximately $150,000 per year.
Hinsdale “will use the money left in a very frugal manner, as Mr. Holt has done,” said Kathryn Lynch.
Holt’s best friend Smith, who was a former legislator and became Holt’s executor, learned of his fortune only in the last few years.
Holt’s varied interests were evident to him. He collected hundreds of train sets and model cars that covered his couch, filled up the rooms and even extended into his shed. His favorite subjects were Henry Ford and World War II. He also collected history books. Holt also had a large record collection, which included Handel and Mozart.
Smith knew Holt had invested his money. Holt was a former production manager of a grain mill in Brattleboro, Vermont. Holt would sit in a quiet area near a stream and read financial publications.
Holt confided in Smith that he was surprised at how well his investments had done. He wasn’t certain what to do with it. Smith suggested that Holt remember the town.
He said, “I was a little dumbfounded to learn that it all went to the city.”
The strictness and the frugalness of upbringing
Smith stated that Holt made his first investment in a mutual fund for communications. This was before the advent of cellphones.
Holt’s 81-year old sister Alison Holt from Laguna Woods in California said that she knew her older brother had invested, and that their father was concerned about not wasting his money or investing.
“Geoffrey was diagnosed with a learning disorder.” She said that he had dyslexia. He was smart in some ways. He was hopeless at writing and spelling. My father was also a professor. Geoff probably felt like he had disappointed my father. “But maybe saving all that cash was a way of competing.”
She and her brother were raised in Springfield, Massachusetts. Their father, Lee Holt taught English and World Literature at American International College. Margaret Holt had a Shakespearean scholar as a father. According to her obituary, she was an artist and “absorbed the Quaker Society of Friends values.” Both parents were peace activist who moved to Amherst to take part in weekly town vigils that addressed local and global peace and justice concerns.
Their children were educated. Geoffrey attended boarding schools in Vermont and the former Marlboro College, where students could design their own degree plans. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1963, served in the U.S. Navy and then received a masters from the college his father taught at in 1968. He taught driver’s education and social studies briefly at Thayer High School, Winchester, New Hampshire before taking the job at the mill.
Alison recalls her father reading Russian novellas to her at night. Geoffrey remembered all the names of characters, even though they were long.
According to his retired librarian sister, it seemed that he was borrowing from his strict upbringing. His parents kept the thermostat at a low temperature, had a garden and accepted clothes donated by a friend for their children.
She said Geoffrey did not need much to be happy. He didn’t like to draw attention to him and may have been afraid to move. He declined a promotion that would have forced him to move.
She said that “he always told me his main goal was to ensure that no one noticed anything,” adding that “or you could get in trouble.”
Holt’s Sister is disappointed that he did not indulge himself “just a little”
He would often ask her if she had any needs, but they didn’t discuss money much.
She said, “I feel sad that he did not indulge himself a little.”
He never complained. He was never alone. He was married briefly as a young boy and then divorced. He moved in with a woman he met at a mobile home park after growing close to her. She died in 2017.
Alison and Geoffrey both have no children.
Holt had a stroke two years ago and worked with Jim Ferry. Ferry described Holt as intellectual, thoughtful and gentle, but not confident in following the academic path that his family took.
Holt was unable to ride his lawnmower after his stroke due to mobility problems.
Ferry explained that lawn mowing for Geoff was a form of relaxation and a way to connect with nature. “I think that he saw lawn mowing as a service to the people that he loved, which was the people in his trailer park who he liked because they weren’t fancy people,” Ferry said.
Hinsdale residents hope that the gift will make them more visible.
Ann Diorio is married to Steve Diorio. She sits on the local planning committee. “This will hopefully put it on the map.”