Genevieve Via Cava was so frugal that a friend tells CNN she went without the hearing aids she needed. The New Jersey special education teacher died in 2011, but her penny-pinching is now grabbing national headlines thanks to her largesse. Bergen County's Dumont School District in April received a $1 million check from her estate and has announced that beginning with the next school year, one special education student per year will receive a $25,000 scholarship to fund post-high-school education. Superintendent Emanuele Triggiano tells NorthJersey.com that Via Cava told her of her intentions roughly a decade ago. His response? He laughed. "I thought it was a joke," he says. "I was not shocked she would donate something," Triggiano tells CNBC. "I was shocked by the number. ... That's a large sum of money for anyone."
Via Cava's husband died in 1998, and the couple had no children. A teacher for nearly 45 years, her consideration for her students is described as notable, with another friend saying "she had an uncanny memory when it came to her students" and was able to recall faces and details from years before. She was also quick to help where she could, helping some secure jobs when they were in their 20s and 30s. Via Cava's attorney tells CNN five additional gifts of $100,000 were made to groups that include the Ramapo Animal Refuge and the Salvation Army. As for why the money is being donated so many years after her death, "it was a sizable estate and it takes time to get the federal government and state government to approve and finalize estate tax returns." (After a recluse died, this nonprofit got a surprise $125 million.)