Unlikely Millionaire Leaves Her Fortune to Gallaudet University

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<i> From Associated Press</i>

A 94-year-old woman who lived in a rundown, cluttered house despite having a $4.4-million stock portfolio willed most of her fortune to Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf in Washington.

Olive Swindells, who died in March of a stroke while preparing her tax return, left 80% of her estate to the school, to which she had no known connection. Her late husband, Bert, had been deaf since childhood. He died in 1994 at age 86 and they had no known living relatives.

Nobody seems to know for sure where she got the money to buy stocks or the real estate she also owned. Bert Swindells was a draftsman and the two lived in a middle-class neighborhood in this Baltimore suburb in a modest, eight-room house valued at $35,000.


“They were very unusual people,” said neighbor Drannin Rose, who said he was unaware of their fortune. “They lived like they had nothing. They never put their trash out, never cut down a bush or a weed.”

After Olive Swindells’ death, thousands of newspapers and magazines dating to the 1920s, many of them relating to the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, were found in the house, along with dozens of empty cans, bottles and boxes.

The couple had one luxury, a summer cottage in Naples, Fla., but had not gone there for most of the last decade.

However, Olive Swindells had $4.4 million worth of stocks in accounts at brokerages in Baltimore and in Florida, and in a safe deposit box, along with bank accounts and real estate, said her lawyer, Bruce E. Goodman.

Altogether, he said, the estate was worth about $4.8 million.

The lawyer authorized an initial transfer of $3 million to the school and will release more after bills are paid. At the time of her death, Swindells’ portfolio included 55 stocks, including H&R; Block, Schlumberger Ltd., DuPont and Royal Dutch Petroleum.

The remaining 20% of the estate was willed to the Daughters of the American Revolution Nursing Home. Estate attorneys have not been able to find a nursing home by that name, but the DAR has filed a claim for the money.