Nearly 70 years earlier, a young Russ Gremel purchased about $1,000 worth of shares of the Chicago-based pharmacy known as Walgreens today. Now, his investment has grown into an incredible $2 million in stock.
Gremel figured there would always be a need for medicine and that the pharmacy chain would grow as time went along. As Walgreens grew exponentially, so did the value of his shares. Despite the growth of his investment each year for 70 years, not once did he cash out. He was going to hold onto it for as long as possible.
By the time he was in his late 90’s, Gremel’s investment was worth more than $2 million. That’s when he pulled something that left many in awe.
Gremel, who lives in Chicago’s Jefferson Park neighborhood, donated the funds to the Illinois Audubon Society, which is using it to help establish a nearly 400-acre wildlife refuge near Dixon and Amboy. The Illinois Audubon Society were more than grateful and will dedicate the refuge to his name.
“It’s incredibly generous,” Jim Herkert, executive director of the society, said of the donation. “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.”
Gremel says he doesn’t need the money for himself – he’s very humble. He watched stock grow in value over time but didn’t give much thought into it. Gremel says he had everything he needed.
“I’m a very simple man,” Gremel told the Chicago Tribune. Gremel never “showed off” his wealth. His last car was a 25-year-old Dodge Omni and he never had a mortgage.
Surprisingly, those who know Gremel aren’t shocked by his donation – they say he’s known for a being a selfless individual.
Gremel has more than 60 years experience as a scoutmaster, and everyone he leads knows just how wonderful he can be.
“The gift that he has given to thousands of kids through Scouting and the influence it’s had on their lives, I think that’s 100 times more valuable,” Dr. Steven Bujewski said, who is a former Scout and lifelong friend of Gremel.
Gremel also served on Kauai, Kawaii and on the island of Titian as an Army lietantnt during World War II. Gremel’s lifelong service to the public and communities around him haven’t gone unnoticed. Many are honoring Gremel for his generous actions.
“You have to do some good in this world,” Gremel said. “That’s what money is for.”