Most townsfolk in tiny Lowell, Mich., probably had no idea Harold J. Englehardt was very wealthy. This week they found out.

Mr. Englehardt, a former banker, died April 1 at the age of 96. City officials revealed Tuesday that he had left the town $12 million, most of his estate, to be used for charitable purposes there and in surrounding towns. The money will be distributed by a committee of five local leaders.

"It just flabbergasted people here to hear $12 million," said City Manager David Pasquale. "Just by looking at him and looking at his house, you would not think of a person that was extremly wealthy. He did not flaunt his wealth. That wasn't his style."

Mr. Englehardt, who had lived in Lowell for about 75 years, was the former president of State Savings Bank, which he founded in 1934 with the help of local investors.

In 1986, after running the bank for decades, he sold it to First Michigan Bank Corp., Holland. Huntington Bancshares of Columbus, Ohio, is slated to buy First Michigan by the end of September. State Savings, now FMB-State Savings Bank, has $140 million of assets.

Mr. Pasquale said Mr. Englehardt had been a fixture in the middle-class community of 4,000, about 15 miles east of Grand Rapids. He came to the town in 1922 to be an assistant cashier at Lowell State Bank, which failed seven years later after the stock market crash.

Mr. Englehardt was "very active and visible," Mr. Pasquale said, continuing as bank president until 1988 and driving his Cadillac around town well into his '90s. "I would see him all the time around town."

But Mr. Englehardt, a widower with no children, lived a very modest lifestyle. "He just felt that money would be more properly used to help people," Mr. Pasquale said.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.