Nearly 20 community colleges in Washington state received a surprise gift this holiday season: checks for $550,000 each, sent from the estate of a 105-year-old Seattle woman who died last year. Per the Guardian, the nearly $10 million left to 17 area schools last month by Eva Gordon came as a surprise not only to the schools, but also to many of Gordon's friends and family members. "Believe me, nobody around her knew what she had," godson John Jacobs tells the Seattle Times, adding that Gordon was able to amass her fortune by working hard, being frugal, and making smart investments. "She was a very intelligent woman ... and had the wherewithal to buy stocks and hold on to them that a lot of people at that age didn't really do too much," Jacobs tells the Guardian, which notes Gordon scooped up stock in such Pacific Northwest giants as Starbucks, Microsoft, and Nordstrom.
MyEdmondsNews.com reports that Gordon, who grew up on an orchard in Oregon, was at the top of her high school class, but her family didn't have the money to send her to college. "If I had a scholarship when I got out of high school, I could have done so much more," she said in a 2013 interview. Instead, she moved to Seattle, became a trading assistant for an investment firm, and married stockbroker Ed Gordon, socking away parts of her small paychecks and slowly building up her wealth. The lack of her own formal higher education and dedication to helping others—she regularly volunteered and donated to educational and children's programs—likely drove her decision for this donation, Jacobs says, adding she would have been a "little annoyed" to see all the headlines about it, per the Times. Gordon's husband died in 2008; the couple had no children. (Read more uplifting news stories.)