Sunday, November 28, 1999

Tiny Indiana town never saw endowment coming

Couple's $23M gift stuns Osgood

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OSGOOD, Ind. — Their neighbors didn't know it, but Gilmore and Golda Reynolds were as rich as they were modest. And Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds were very modest. About $23 million worth.

        After the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds, residents of this tiny Ripley County town were stunned to learn their community is $23 million richer thanks to the unassuming couple's generosity.

        According to the Reynolds' will, money from their estate will be distributed through donations to the town and local grants at a rate of $1 million annually, which is about three times more than Osgood's current annual operating budget.

        In total, the $23 million gift is more than the assessed value of the entire southeast Indiana community of 1,800 residents.

        “We were really surprised. They were both very low key ... very modest,” said Carl Moore, president of the Osgood Town Council, who along with other town residents first learned of the generous gift earlier this month.

        “It's certainly been the talk of the town,” said Mr. Moore.

        Residents of Osgood, which is north of Versailles, have known since 1990 that the quiet couple who lived in a plain, stucco home had a generous streak. That was the year that Mr. Reynolds, a retired businessman, died and the Gilmore and Golda Reynolds Foundation was created. Mrs. Reynolds coordinated relatively modest foundation donations to various local causes — including the fire department, library and community center — before her death in 1998.

        But local residents were flabbergasted when they were told earlier this month of the foundation's $23 million gift to Osgood.

        “It was a surprise and very impressive,” said longtime resident DeVota Dean. “They were just common people ... a childless couple who were very modest.”

        As a sample of what's to come, the foundation gave the town a check for $120,000 on Nov. 15 to help pay for a major storm sewer renovation. Foundation officials said this month they are starting a grants program that officials described as being “for the benefit of the residents of Osgood and the surrounding rural community.”

        Michael Black is a great- nephew of Mrs. Reynolds and

        one of the five foundation board members carrying out the couple's wishes. He said the couple's instructions were simple — use the money to improve the quality of life for Osgood residents.

        “There was nothing specific. Just use it to better Osgood. They spent their entire lives here,” said Mr. Black, who is a detective with the Indiana State Patrol.

        Mrs. Reynolds began as a teacher and her husband, who never attended high school, was a partner in a car dealership. They were married in 1928.

        As the car changed the American landscape, Mr. Reynolds noticed gas stations didn't offer snacks, so the couple started a wholesale candy, tobacco and popcorn business.

        When propane gas began replacing coal, the couple began Reynolds Gas Co. and sold furnaces, propane and appliances. Mrs. Reynolds quit teaching and worked full time in the businesses, doing all the bookkeeping.

        They sold their company in 1964 and spent the rest of their days investing in the stock market.

        Mr. Black said Mr. Reynolds was involved in the stock market most of his life.

        The two worked together detailing their growing stock portfolio by compiling complex charts in the basement of their home, he said. They meticulously tracked their stocks daily and over the years expanded their fortune.

        “There were a lot of people surprised by the amount of their estate,” said Mr. Black.

        Town Council President Moore said the Reynolds' money will likely next go to improving roads and sidewalks in Osgood. A $900,000 storm sewer project is planned, and later a new, expanded system of water lines will be created to serve area residents, he said.

        The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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