Secret multimillionaire leaves New Hampshire town $3.8M after death

  • Geoffrey Holt, 82, left millions to the town of Hinsdale following his death in June
  • The donation has stunned locals who knew him as the caretaker of the trailer park where he lived
  • The former mill worker’s apparently shabby existence belied a huge wealth generated through savvy investments 

An unassuming New Hampshire man who lived a threadbare existence has stunned his local community after gifting them $3.8 million following his death. 

Secret multimillionaire Geoffrey Holt, 82, lived quietly in the town of Hinsdale for decades until passing in June.

His home was a rundown trailer and he was often seen sporting tatty clothes and riding around town on a lawnmower since he had no car. 

But now it has emerged the groundskeeper was sitting on a fortune, which he generously chose to share with his town after his death.

‘I don’t think anyone had any idea that he was that successful,’ said Steve Diorio, chairperson of the town select board who’d occasionally wave at Holt from his car. 

New Hampshire man Geoffrey Holt, who lived in a rundown trailer, has stunned his hometown of Hinsdale by leaving a $3.8 million legacy to the community after his death

Holt, pictured here on Sept. 12, 2022, died in June aged 82. It was only after his death it emerged that he was a secret millionaire

 ‘I know he didn’t have a whole lot of family, but nonetheless, to leave it to the town where he lived in … It’s a tremendous gift.’

Holt was known by most of the 4,200 residents of his town as the caretaker of his mobile home park, Stearns Park.

He owned barely any furniture, shunned TVs and computers and slept on a bed with legs that went through his floor. 

‘He seemed to have what he wanted, but he didn’t want much,’ said Edwin ‘Smokey’ Smith, Holt´s best friend and former employer. 

But his frugal existence belied a massive wealth, generated through smart investments.

Holt, who earlier in life had worked as a production manager at a grain mill that closed in nearby Brattleboro, Vermont, was savvy with his money and would find a quiet place to sit near a brook and study financial publications.

Holt confided to Smith that his investments were doing better than he had ever expected and wasn’t sure what to to do with the money. Smith suggested that he remember the town.

One of Holt’s first investments into a mutual fund was in communications, Smith said – well before the advent of cellphones.

For years, Holt was known as a mobile home park groundskeeper who did odd jobs in his local community

Holt lived in Stearns Park for decades in a basically empty trailer which had little furniture and no TV or computer

‘When Geoff realized he had a couple million dollars in the bank, he didn’t know what he was going to do with it,’ Smith said.

‘The only parting thing I said to him was, “remember the town of Hinsdale”. Apparently it resonated quite well with him, more so than I expected.’ 

The former lawmaker eventually became executor of his best friend’s estate.

‘Geoffrey was an interesting individual. He was very articulate but he did have some unusual characteristics. He was not one to miss work, he just showed up and did what he had to do,’ Smith added.

Holt had varied interests, like collecting hundreds of model cars and train sets that filled his rooms, covered the couch and extended into a shed. 

He also collected books about history, with Henry Ford and World War II among his favorite topics. Holt had an extensive record collection too, including Handel and Mozart. 

His sister, 81-year-old Alison Holt of Laguna Woods, California, said she knew her brother invested and remembered that not wasting money and investing were important to their father.

‘Geoffrey had a learning disability. He had dyslexia,’ she said. ‘He was very smart in certain ways. When it came to writing or spelling, he was a lost cause. 

The reclusive former mill worker had little family and confided in his best friend Ed Smith that he did not know what to do with all the money he made from his investments

Despite his millions, Holt rode around town on a lawnmower because he felt a car was too expensive

The longtime trailer park resident was highly educated and made a number of shrewd investments, including in a communications company before the dawn of cellphones, which earned him huge payouts

‘And my father was a professor. So, I think that Geoff felt like he was disappointing my dad. But maybe socking away all that money was a way to compete.’

She and her brother grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. Their father, Lee Holt, taught English and world literature at American International College. 

Their mother, Margaret Holt, had a Shakespearean scholar for a dad. She was an artist who ‘absorbed the values of the Quaker Society of Friends,’ according to her obituary.

Both parents were peace activists who eventually moved to Amherst and took part in a weekly town vigil that addressed local to global peace and justice issues.

Their children were well-educated. Geoffrey went to boarding schools and attended the former Marlboro College in Vermont, where students had self-designed degree plans. 

He graduated in 1963 and served in the U.S. Navy before earning a master´s degree from the college where his father taught in 1968. 

Despite not owning a car himself due to the ‘expense’, he previously taught drivers’ ed to high schoolers.

He also briefly taught social studies at Thayer High School in Winchester, New Hampshire, before getting his job at the mill.

Ed Smith, Holt's best friend, advised him to think of the town when it came to how to spend his fortune. 'Apparently it resonated quite well with him, more so than I expected,' he said

Holt had varied interests, like collecting hundreds of model cars and train sets that filled his rooms, covered the couch and extended into a shed.

The generous donation stipulated that it was to be used for education, health, recreation and culture


His sister remembers their father reading Russian novels to them at bedtime. Geoffrey could remember all those long names of multiple characters.

He seemed to borrow a page from his own upbringing, which was strict and frugal, according to his sister, a retired librarian. His parents had a vegetable garden, kept the thermostat low, and accepted donated clothes for their children from a friend.

She said Geoffrey didn’t need a lot to be happy, didn’t want to draw attention to himself, and might have been afraid of moving. He once declined a promotion at the mill that would have required him to relocate.

‘He always told me that his main goal in life was to make sure that nobody noticed anything,’ she said, adding that he’d say ‘or you might get into trouble.’

They didn’t talk much about money, though he would ask her often if she needed anything.

‘I just feel so sad that he didn´t indulge himself just a little bit,’ she said.

But he never seemed to complain.  As a young man, he was briefly married and divorced. Years later, he grew close to a woman at the mobile home park, Thelma Park, and moved in with her. She died in 2017 and the two did not have children together.

Holt suffered a stroke a couple of years ago, and worked with therapist Jim Ferry, who described him as thoughtful, intellectual and genteel, but not comfortable with following the academic route that family members took.

Holt lived in Hinsdale, NH, for most of his adult life. He previously taught drivers' ed and worked in a mill, using his salary to make his investments

Residents have proposed using the money to upgrade the town hall clock, restore buildings, or buy a new ballot counting machine in honor of Holt, who always made sure he voted

Holt had developed mobility issues following his stroke, and missed riding his mower.

‘I think for Geoff, lawn mowing was relaxation, it was a way for him to kind of connect with the outdoors,’ Ferry said. ‘I think he saw it as service to people that he cared about, which were the people in the trailer park that I think he really liked because they were not fancy people.’

Residents are hoping Hinsdale will get noticed a bit more because of the gift.

‘It’s actually a forgotten corner in New Hampshire,’ said Ann Diorio, who’s married to Steve Diorio and is on the local planning board. ‘So maybe this will put it on the map a little bit.’

Holt’s legacy stipulated that the donation be used to  to benefit the community in the areas of education, health, recreation and culture.

The money could go far in this Connecticut River town sandwiched between Vermont and Massachusetts, with abundant hiking and fishing opportunities and small businesses.

The locality is named after Ebenezer Hinsdale, an officer in the French and Indian Wars who built a fort and a grist mill. 

In addition to Hinsdale’s house, built in 1759, the town has the nation´s oldest continually operating post office, dating back to 1816.

So far there has been no formal gathering to discuss ideas for the money since local officials were notified in September. 

Some residents have proposed upgrading the town hall clock, restoring buildings, maybe buying a new ballot counting machine in honor of Holt, who always made sure he voted. Another possibility is setting up an online drivers’ education course.

Organizations would be be able to apply for grants via a trust through the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, drawing from the interest, roughly about $150,000 annually.

Hinsdale will ‘utilize the money left very frugally as Mr. Holt did,’ said Kathryn Lynch, town administrator.


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