Washington state resident Helen Dyrdal was not a wealthy woman... or at least no one thought she was.
Her friends remember her as a coupon-clipping retiree living with broken furniture and tattered clothes, frugal in every way. But when she passed away last March, her neighbors quickly began to realize she had left behind more than fond memories. Much, much more.
Helen was widowed and didn't have any children or other relatives. Her best friend, Goldie Ericson, was charged with handling the 91-year-old's estate when she passed. Following her death last March, Ericson starting opening Helen's financial statements. "There would be things like $336,000," Goldie told KOMO News in Seattle, "and they kept rolling in."
In the end, it turned out penny-pinching Helen had saved up more than $3 million. "It was total and complete surprise," Goldie said. "It was as though I had stumbled onto something that I had no knowledge of, ever."
The bigger surprise came later, however, when Helen's will announced that all her money was to be donated to charities.
Half a million dollars went to Providence Hospice of Seattle. "It's our largest single donation we've every received," the group's spokesman said. "(It will) fund part of our pediatric hospice, which cares for children that are terminally ill."
Helen's local Renton, Wash., Salvation Army chapter also received $500,000 to help their family services.
Goldie said her friend Helen was very private in life, but is sending a clear message with her charitable gift. "She said, 'I want people to recognize that I am a good person at heart."