A legal secretary secretly stashed away millions of dollars by observing the investments made by lawyers she worked for.
Sylvia Bloom worked for the same law firm for more than 60 years and only retired when she was 96. She died not long afterwards, in 2016.
But unbeknown to any of her family or friends, she had accumulated substantial wealth and was able to donate millions to charities in New York out of a wealth fund of $9m (£6.6m).
The Henry Street Settlement, a social charity in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, received $6.24m (£4.4m) from Ms Bloom – the largest gift from an individual in its 125-year history.
Her niece, Jane Lockshin, said: “She was a secretary in an era when they ran their boss’s lives, including their personal investments.
“So when the boss would buy a stock, she would make the purchase for him and buy the same stock for herself, but in a smaller amount because she was on a secretary’s salary.”
Because Ms Bloom never talked to anyone about what she was doing, her fortune only emerged when she died.
Ms Lockshin, who is the executor of Ms Bloom’s estate, said it was an “oh my god moment” when the money was discovered.
She said: “I realised she had millions and she never mentioned a word. I don’t think she thought it was anybody’s business but her own.”
In her will, Ms Bloom left some money to relatives and friends but wanted most of her wealth to go towards scholarships for underprivileged young people.
David Garza, director of the Henry Street Settlement, was asked whether he was sitting down before he was told about the massive windfall.
Mr Garza said “we were all agape, just blown away” and added that the gift was made in February but has only now been disclosed.
Ms Bloom, who never had children, was born to eastern European immigrants during the Great Depression and completed a degree during the evenings as she worked during the day to make enough money to live on.
In 1947 she joined a new law firm in Wall Street called Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and was one of its first employees.
The firm grew to its current size of more than 1,200 lawyers as well as hundreds of other staff.
Ms Bloom’s husband Raymond Margolies was a firefighter in New York and died in 2002.
She retained her maiden name and all the money was in her name so it was “very possible” her husband did not know about her wealth.
Paul Hyams, a human resources executive for the firm who became good friends with Ms Bloom during his 35 years working at the law firm, said he was “completely astounded” to learn of her wealth.
He said: “She never talked money and she didn’t live the high life. She wasn’t showy and didn’t want to call attention to herself.”