Humble Carpenter's Generosity

Dale Schroeder lived a simple life, but his legacy is one of life-changing kindness.⁠

Dale grew up poor, and he never got an education or got married. He became a carpenter and stuck to that trade, working for the same company for 67 years.

Schroeder lead a frugal life and saved up a fortune over the years. He had no living descendants, so before he died, he went to his lawyer with a plan for his money. "He said, 'I never got the opportunity to go to college. So, I'd like to help kids go to college,'" his lawyer Steve Nielsen said. Not only did Schroeder have enough money to send a few kids to college, he had enough saved to send dozens.

When he died in 2005, no one could have guessed how rich Schroeder really was. "He had church jeans and work jeans," Nielsen said. His simple lifestyle meant he managed to save almost $3 million over 70 years.

Schroeder's friend and lawyer was shocked by his secret fortune. So were the strangers who received pieces of it. Kira Conard was one of them. In high school, she had the grades to attend college, but not the money. "I grew up in a single parent household and I had three older sisters, so paying for all four of us was never an option," she said.

Conard wanted to become a therapist, but saw no feasible way to pay for school. "[It] almost made me feel powerless. Like, I want to do this. I have this goal, but I can't get there just because of the financial part." 

That's when her phone rang. "I broke down into tears immediately," Conard said. The man on the other end told her about Schroeder. Schroeder left specific instructions for his money: send small town Iowa kids to college. "He wanted to help kids that were like him, that probably would have an opportunity to go to college but for his gift," Nielsen explained.

Schroeder ended up paying for 33 strangers' college tuitions. The group, who have dubbed themselves "Dale's Kids," got together earlier this month to honour the man who changed their lives. They're now doctors, teachers, therapists - and friends.

There's just one thing Schroeder asked for in return. "All we ask is that you pay it forward," Nielsen said. "You can't pay it back, because Dale is gone, but you can remember him and you can emulate him."