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Millionaire miser leaves fortune to Bonner County nonprofits

Millionaire miser leaves fortune to Bonner County nonprofits

With a population of less than 700 people, everyone in the town of Kootenai in Bonner County tends to know each other. It was no different with Dorothy Adler, who moved to Kootenai from Malibu, Calif., in the mid-1990s.

"She was well-known around town," said Barbara Porath, who owns Kootenai Used Furniture and was a friend of Adler's and the personal representative of her estate when Adler passed away in early 2012. "She had many friends, but we didn't have a clue who this little lady was until we went to clean her house out."

One of Dorothy's distinctive characteristics was her thriftiness. Barbara remembers: "She'd come by my store and browse, but not buy anything because it was too expensive. She'd get a cup of coffee from LeAnna's shop, but you couldn't ask her to pay for it. She shopped at the dollar store. She wouldn't turn her oil furnace on unless the temperatures were really cold. She'd be sitting there in four layers of clothes and if you went to turn the heat up she'd tell you to turn it back down."

But as Barbara and her daughter LeAnna Porath discovered, Adler was a millionaire. Upon her passing, she left $1.5 million to nonprofits, including the Panhandle Animal Shelter and the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force, and she established a scholarship at Lake Pend Oreille School through ICF. It took the organizations by surprise because with the exception of the animal shelter, she had not previously donated to any of them.

Not only that, but Barbara discovered that Dorothy was raised in Kootenai and never told anyone. Barbara and LeAnna discovered it when they were sorting through her things and came across school prize ribbons. At first they thought she had picked them up at local yard sales, but soon realized Dorothy had won them herself as a student.

Barbara has been able to piece together that Dorothy, whose maiden name was Beck, and her family likely moved to Kootenai when Dorothy was in elementary school. Her mother worked at Lake Pend Oreille School and her father was employed by the state.

Dorothy left Kootenai for New York City as soon as she graduated from high school. She met and married renowned violinist Murray Adler and the two later moved to southern California. She did her own investing and kept the details secret from everyone, including Murray. Barbara recalled that Dorothy loved to talk to people about their lives, but she never reciprocated with details about her own experiences.

"She was so interested in people and she could get in the best conversation with a total stranger, but she never liked to talk about herself," Barbara recalled. "She had a sharp tongue and you didn't push her."

Barbara, who didn't know she was personal representative of Dorothy's estate until she was contacted by a lawyer, said despite Dorothy's private persona she wishes she pushed a little harder. "I should have been a little more snoopy," she said.


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