Dale Schroeder worked as a carpenter for 67 years and died a simple man with no heir, but requested that his secret fortune of nearly $3 million be left to bless others.
Schroeder only owned two pair of jeans — one he wore to church and the other he wore to work — and drove an old Chevy truck. Not even his closet friends knew he had saved nearly $3 million when he died in 2005 at age 86, CBS Des Moines affiliate KCCI reported earlier this week.
“I nearly fell out of my chair," Schroeder’s friend, Steve Nielsen, told KCCI in an interview about the impact he made in the lives of many Iowan students.
The late Moehl Millwork employee saved his money over the years and told Nielsen that when he passed he wanted to help others with what he saved. Nielsen hadn't a clue how much his friend had actually saved.
"He said, 'I never got the opportunity to go to college. So I'd like to help kids go to college,'" Nielsen said, reflecting on what Schroeder once told him.
Schroeder's instructions were to use the money he saved to send small-town Iowa students to college. And because of the amount he had amassed, he was able to help change the lives of 33 people over the last 14 years.
One of the beneficiaries of Schroeder’s generosity was Kira Conard, an aspiring therapist, who didn’t think she’d be able to go to college because she grew up in a single-parent home with three older siblings.
"[It] almost made me feel powerless," she told KCCI.
A call from Nielsen nevertheless changed everything. Schroeder's scholarship would offer to pay Conard’s $80,000 tuition bill.
"I broke down into tears immediately," Conard continued. "For a man that would never meet me, to give me basically a full ride to college, that's incredible. That doesn't happen."
On July 20, all 33 students who Schroeder put through college gathered together and celebrated the generous man's legacy.
"All we ask is that you pay it forward," Nielsen told the group. "You can't pay it back, because Dale's gone. But you can remember him and you can emulate him."
Schroeder's obituary said he died with no descendants.