Frugal Until the End, Seattle Lawyer Dies Leaving Entire $187.6 Million Fortune to Charity

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(Photo:Seattle Children's Hospital)Jack MacDonald.

Seattle, Washington-based lawyer Jack MacDonald was a coupon-clipping bargain hunter who wore sweaters with holes in them to make people think he was poor. When he died at 98 in September, however, he surprisingly left a fortune worth $187.6 million to charity.

A report in The Seattle Times, revealed Tuesday that MacDonald, a graduate of the University of Washington, willed a $187.6 million charitable trust to Seattle Children's Research Institute, the University Of Washington School Of Law and the Salvation Army.

Children's will get 40 percent of the money while the remaining 60 percent will be split equally between the law school and the Salvation Army.

Officials at Children's billed it the largest philanthropic gift in the state for 2013 as well as the sixth largest so far in the entire country this year.

"I thought of him in many ways as a gentle giant," noted Doug Picha, president of the Seattle Children's Foundation, and a friend to MacDonald for 30 years. "He was tall, very shy, very understated, humble. You would never have known that he had great wealth."

MacDonald had worked in Seattle for the Veterans Administration (now Department of Veteran's Affairs) for 30 years before his death. During his lifetime he supported many causes with small donations including a $536,000 gift to the hospital. He also gave to a small town in Canada where his parents are buried.

His parents died leaving him an inheritance built from profits from the MacDonald Meat Co. they ran and he worked hard to add to their legacy.

The frugal lawyer was "amazing" at picking stocks to invest in according to Regen Dennis, his stepdaughter who now lives in Utah.

"He didn't trust a lot of other people to do his research; he directed what he wanted bought, and he really knew what he wanted," she said.

MacDonald had no children of his own and married Dennis' mother Mary Katherine Moore in 1971 when he was in his 50s. Moore's two children, including Dennis, were already grown.

She said when she learned of his wealth, she asked the couple: "Why don't you move to an elegant big house, or get a new car?"

MacDonald, however, preferred taking the bus and material possessions weren't important to him.

"They were happy the way they were," said Dennis. "They were very comfortable, and they had a beautiful garden."

"Jack went out of his way to look poor, partly because he didn't want to be badgered by people who wanted money," Dennis said.

In July this year, MacDonald began his descent into death after experiencing a serious fall and as doctors treated him, he insisted that they used generic drugs and not the expensive brands.

"It's so Jack," said Dennis. "The neurosurgeon is trying to keep the man alive, and he says, 'I don't want those expensive brand-name drugs.' "

She explained that three years ago, she helped him write his obituary and he indicated to her that he wanted to be remembered as a philanthropist.

"He felt really good about what he was doing with his money," she said, "and our family feels good about what he's doing with his money."

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