When Dale Schroeder passed away in 2005, he had no family left to mourn him. But his legacy will live on nonetheless in the 33 strangers whose lives he changed for the better.
The unmarried carpenter lived a simple life, working at the same company for 67 years. Though he saved up throughout all those decades, he only left a few possessions behind: two pairs of jeans and a rusty Chevrolet truck.
As for money? Well, he’d amassed nearly $3 million. But he never spent an extra cent on himself; he’d been holding onto it for a much greater purpose. You see, Dale grew up poor and never got the chance to go to college. So he made it his life’s mission to give others the opportunity — and left instructions for his entire small fortune to be used to pay tuition for smalltown Iowa students.
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“He was that kind of a blue-collar, lunch pail kind of a guy. Went to work every day, worked really hard, was frugal like a lot of Iowans,” his friend, Steve Nielsen, said. “He wanted to help kids that were like him [who] probably wouldn’t have an opportunity to go to college but for his gift.”
Dale’s generosity ended up giving 33 people an education they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. Kira Conrad was close to giving up her dream of becoming a therapist when she got the call that her entire $80,000 tuition would be paid in full.
“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. “I broke down into tears immediately. For a man that would never meet me to give me basically a full ride to college, that’s incredible. That doesn’t happen.”
Recently, she and other recipients gathered 14 years after Dale’s death to celebrate his amazing gift. While Dale had no children of his own, the 33 doctors, teachers, graduates, and other professionals will forever call themselves “Dale’s kids.” And they’ve vowed to fulfill Dale’s last wish.
“All we ask is that you pay it forward,” Steve said. “You can’t pay it back, because Dale’s gone. But you can remember him and you can emulate him.”
Dale may have lived small, but he’s made an incredible impact that’s sure to grow and spread as his kids make good on their promise. What a wonderful man.
Learn more about Dale’s legacy in the video below, and share so the world will always remember his good deed.
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