SEATTLE offers thanks to Jack Rupert MacDonald, who bequeathed $187 million in perpetual trust, with the income to go to Seattle Children’s Research Institute, the University of Washington School of Law and the Salvation Army.
For 30 years, MacDonald was a lawyer at the Veterans Administration — a federal job of the sort to build a pension but not a patrimony.
He inherited some money from his parents, who owned the MacDonald Meat Co. He could have spent it on a big house, a big boat, a big life. He didn’t.
He was frugal. He rode the bus. He clipped grocery coupons. His lunch was a peanut butter sandwich and an apple. He wore sweaters with holes in an attempt not to look rich. When hospitalized, he asked to be treated with generic drugs.
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None of that will get you a fortune. MacDonald did it by investing. He read The Wall Street Journal and Forbes. He went to stockholder meetings. He made an avocation of it.
His portfolio plunged in the crash of 2008. His top holding was stock in a big bank, but it was Wells Fargo, the big bank least burned in the subprime-mortgage bonfire. That MacDonald owned stock in the most cautious bank was probably not an accident. He invested in other successful enterprises, including Paccar, Plum Creek and Apple.
MacDonald lived a long time, which is important in building up a legacy. He had good genes: in his 90s he could read without glasses. He walked several miles a day. He was giving his broker instructions up to an hour before he died, at age 98.
All the while he was working for UW Law, the Salvation Army and Children’s. Only Children’s knew it; they would invite him to luncheons and he would sit quietly. Even they had no idea of the magnitude of his generosity.
Seattle thanks him now.