He lived a simple life running a corner grocery store—and left $13 million to a Catholic school

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A spectacular act of generosity:

In life, Leonard Gigowski ran a corner grocery store. The bachelor loved ballroom dancing and pigeon racing.

In death, he found a way to help generations of students pay their tuition at St. Thomas More High School, his own alma mater back when it was called St. Francis Minor Seminary.

This quiet and frugal man left $13 million in a scholarship fund that covers up to half the tuition for needy students who don’t qualify for the private school choice program and its state aid payments.

“He lived a very simple life, nothing extravagant whatsoever in his lifestyle. For the most part, he saved his money and wanted to provide a legacy, which he did,” said Larry Haskin, Leonard’s lawyer and friend who helped him set up the Leonard Gigowski Catholic Education Foundation.

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Leonard was 90 and still in his New Berlin home when he died of cancer on July 21, 2015. He never married or had children. All but one sibling preceded him in death.

He made a few small bequests to individuals and family members, but the vast majority of his estate went toward the scholarships, as he wished.

Mary McIntosh, president of Thomas More on Milwaukee’s south side, recalls meeting Haskin for coffee and learning of the foundation. “He told me the size of Leonard’s gift, and I almost fell off my chair,” she said.

This school year, a total of $489,000 was awarded to 131 students to cover either one-half ($5,400) or one-third ($3,600) of the annual tuition, which is $10,800. The goal is to distribute 5% of the fund balance each year, thus keeping it going into perpetuity. Students can renew the scholarship each year as long as they keep their grades up.

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All of that is a pretty good reason for the school to feel grateful, especially in this week devoted to giving thanks.

“It’s a fantastic recruiting tool to be able to reduce tuition, and to make it a bit more affordable for the families,” said Haskin, a graduate of Pio Nono High School, also a predecessor of Thomas More.
Read more. God bless him.

Read more. God bless him.

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