Chicago man, 98, turns $1,000 in stock into $2 million and donates it all to wildlife

Call it his swansong.
A Chicago man who bought $1,000 in stock about 70 years ago has turned the resulting $2 million over to a wildlife charity that has bought a preserve they have named after him.
Russ Gremel, now 98, was in his late 20s when he decided to put some of his hard-earned money into a then-small Chicago drugstore chain called Walgreens.
He told the Chicago Tribune that he figured the people would always need medicine and women would always need makeup.
Now the results of that stock-picking savvy have been invested in a nearly 400-acre wildlife refuge about 100 miles west of his home.
According to the Tribune, Gremel approached the Illinois Audubon Society about a possible donation in 2015. It turned out that the society had been keeping an eye on the 395-acre property, which the group bought for $2.1 million in December 2016.
"It's incredibly generous," society executive director Jim Herkert told the paper. "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."
The large stash of cash results in part from Gremel’s simple lifestyle. He has lived for almost 95 years in the same house, which he inherited from his parents. 
"I'm a very simple man," Gremel told the Tribune as he smoked a pipe on his front porch. "I never let anybody know I had that kind of money."
A graduate of Northwestern University's law school, he practiced what he calls "Abraham Lincoln law," but, having set aside most of his earnings, gave it up at age 45 and retired.
"You're not going to die at 70 years of age,” he told the Tribune, “and say, 'what if?'"
Instead, he devoted himself to the simple life – and the Boy Scouts.
More than a dozen of those attending the preserve’s opening on Sunday, according to news website SaukValley.com, were Eagle Scouts Gremel had mentored, ranging from teens to a 72-year-old who came to honor Gremel’s 60-plus years in the scouts.
“Every one of us here has been touched by Russ,” said Francis O’Byrne, who joined Gremel’s troop in 1971. “There’s story after story after story; it’s a ripple effect.”
“Don’t be afraid to step up, don’t be afraid to try something new,” he told the crowd. “Don’t be afraid to be yourself.”

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