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Childless man donates shares worth $2 million to wildlife charity

By Nina Steele 

Russ Gremel from Chicago, never married and had no children. He died on April 22, 2018. He was 99. He first worked as a lawyer and then retired at the age of 45. He dedicated the rest of his life to being a scoutmaster. He is said to have lived a fairly frugal life, which explains how he was able to leave such a large legacy. The beneficiary of his donation is the Illinois Audubon Society.

A lifelong friend said this about Russ Gremel: “He lived his life the way he wanted to live it and not by the way that society would expect him to live it”. He also died the way he had wished for, at home, surrounded by his friends and neighbours, and his beloved dog.

These types of stories are a reminder that family can mean different things to different people. Russ Gremel did not have children, however, instead of sitting at home feeling sorry for himself, he chose to be involved with his community and thus creating his own support network. Because ultimately, that is what it all boils down to. Having people you know will be there if you ever needed them.

In my own experience of working with the elderly, in the end, even those with children rely more on their neighbours than they do their own children. Because more often than not, the children do not live nearby, so, whenever there is a crisis, it is the neighbours who are the first to act.

I have said it many times before, everyone should plan for old age, regardless of whether they have children or not. Neighbours are a crucial part of our lives, whether some of us want to admit it or not. I do understand that sometimes, relation with neighbours can become fraught, and I wrote about my own negative experience some years back. However, there is no escaping the reality that we are better off getting on well with our neighbours.

My own attitude to neighbours has changed dramatically in the past year. This was brought on by an incident that happened at the end of last year. We were on holiday when our alarm went off. Unfortunately for us, the neighbour who used to have a spare key to our house had moved away, and because we had no other neighbour to contact, we made the decision to cut our holiday short. Luckily, the holiday was within the UK and we got home to find that it was a false alarm.

That incident reminded me of the importance of neighbours, and crucially, of making an effort to get along with as many as possible. So I leapt into action. A new family moved in next door to us a few months ago. The house had been unoccupied for well over a year. It is a husband and wife and their two children. We have been introduced to each other and the wife and I have hit it off. We have exchanged phone numbers and promised to look after each other’s home whenever the other is away. It was me who made the suggestion and she jumped at the opportunity. I have also decided to be more friendly with all the other neighbours. After all, this is our community. As the story of Russ Gremel shows, ultimately, we make our own support network.

Russ Gremel

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