Read, the first person in his family to graduate from high school, dressed in worn flannel shirts and spent his free time scavenging for fallen branches for his home wood stove. He drove a second-hand Toyota Yaris.
"You'd never know the man was a millionaire," Rowell said. "The last time he came here, he parked far away in a spot where there were no meters so he could save the coins."
Read graduated from Brattleboro High School in 1940 and during World War II served in North Africa, Italy and the Pacific theater. Returning home, he worked at Haviland's service station and then as a janitor at a JCPenney store, marrying a woman with two children.
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Before his death on June 2, 2014, Read's only indulgence was eating breakfast at the local coffee shop, where he once tried to pay his bill only to find that someone had already covered it under the assumption he did not have the means, Rowell said.
Last week, Brooks Memorial Library and Brattleboro Memorial Hospital each received their largest bequests ever. Read left $1.2 million to the library, founded in 1886, and $4.8 million to the hospital, founded in 1904.
"It was a thunderbolt from the sky," said the library's executive director, Jerry Carbone. While a surprise, he said the gift made sense once he learned more about the quiet, shy library patron appropriately named Read.
"Being a self-made man with his investments, he recognized the transformative nature of a library, what it can do for people," Carbone said.
Read's stepchildren survive him but were not immediately available for comment.