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"Unbelievably frugal" Indianapolis man left $13 million to charities

Frugal man left $13 million to charities
"Unbelievably frugal" Indianapolis man left $13 million to charities 02:44

Indianapolis — At Teachers' Treasures, a free store in Indianapolis for educators who need school supplies, executive director Margaret Sheehan is still stunned at her good fortune after someone called to offer her nonprofit more than $1 million.

"It was an act of amazing kindness to which I responded, 'I need to sit down,'" Sheehan told CBS News."

And it wasn't just her. For the past two years across Indianapolis, dozens of other nonprofits have gotten the same call.

"The first thing he said was, 'What would you do with $1 million?'" said Emmy Hildebrand, CEO of the group Helping Veterans and Families of Indiana.

"We hovered above our own bodies, thinking, like, is this real?" said Julie Henson, vice president of development for Coburn Place, which provides support and housing to survivors of domestic violence.

The man making the calls was attorney Dwayne Isaacs. He says just about everyone had that same reaction, and some wouldn't even hear him out because it sounded so unbelievable.

"Probably three or four different entities that lost out because they just didn't take my call," Isaacs told CBS News.

The money isn't Isaacs. He's just the executor. The money belonged to a man named Terry Kahn, who worked for 30 years for the Veterans Administration. He had no immediate family.

Most importantly, according to Isaacs, "he just was unbelievably frugal."

Kahn lived in a modest house in south Indianapolis. He drove an old Honda and refused to carry a cellphone because he said they cost too much. 

Even when he died in 2021, he wanted no announcement, because who would spend good money on an obituary? The man was pennywise, but pound generous.

Everything was directed to charity. But in his will, Kahn didn't specify which charity, so Isaacs called around to see who wanted it. In the end, about a dozen nonprofits took his call and got a share of the $13 million estate. That included $1.5 million for Teachers' Treasures, roughly double their annual budget.

"Forever changed because of his choice and how he lived," Sheehan said.

"He's smiling some place, there's no doubt about it," Isaacs said. "He would be getting a kick out of this."

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