Russ Gremel is 98-years-old man living in Chicago. He describes himself as a “simple man,” having no wife and children and living in the same home for about 95 years; a house he inherited from his parents. He was in his late 20’s about 70 years ago when he first took interest in purchasing stock on a small local drugstore. He told Chicago Tribune that he figured people would always need medicine and women would always need make-up. The drugstore was named Walgreens and it was a small chain then. He invested $1,000. Today, his shares are worth over $2 million.
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Gremel has always loved the outdoors. He spent years traveling on his own, as a Boy Scout and in the military. No one knew he was as wealthy as he is, as he prefers oatmeal and simple dishes and drives a 25-year-old Dodge Omni. He retired at 45 and has spent his time mentoring Scouts and hikers, watching baseball games and reading. As he grew older, he decided it was time to do something with the money he earned through investments. He contacted the Illinois Audobon Society two years ago and discovered they were looking into a 395-acre property to turn into a wildlife sanctuary.
“Why not give it to them now, when … I have the pleasure and enjoyment of seeing it,”
Gremel donated his Walgreens shares and the Society then purchased the property for $2.1 million. It’s now been deemed the Gremel Wildlife Sanctuary. Jim Heckert, the executive director of the Society, is very hopeful about the Sanctuary and Gremel’s donation.
“It’s incredibly generous […] It’s allowing us to protect a really valuable and important piece of property and fulfill one of Russ’ wishes that we could find a place where people could come out and experience and enjoy nature the way he did as a kid.”
The property is home to 170 different species of birds, some rare turtles and other animals as well as 400 species of plants. Gremel and some of his former Boy Scouts will trek the new area on Sunday. He’s honored by the dedication, but doesn’t want to give a speech or draw attention to himself. He doesn’t think he did anything special – he just held a stock and donated the money.
“You have to do some good in this world […] That’s what money is for.”
Needless to say, Gremel is an amazing man and has helped countless numbers of people and wild animals. We look forward to hearing more about the Gremel Wildlife Sanctuary and are pleased to see that the generous man is going to be able to enjoy the area in person.