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Two Old-Timers Who Lived Like Paupers Leave Millions to Church, Library

May 29, 1996

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Raymond Fay, a retired science teacher, lived a solitary life in a sparse apartment with no phone, no television and no car. He kept index cards detailing the thousands of books he read.

Similarly, Mary McGinnis shared her house with a broken refrigerator and had no heat or air conditioning. She took a bus every day to a senior center to eat free meals, and in winter wore several coats to keep warm.

And yet, when Fay and McGinnis _ both elderly, both single _ died within the past six months, they left behind fortunes.

She willed $1 million to Our Mother of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church, he a $1.5 million endowment to the Free Library of Philadelphia.

``Mr. Fay’s gift will touch the lives of many people,″ library spokesman Stephen Bell said Wednesday.

Fay, who died in December at 92, retired in 1969 from a high school teaching job that never paid him more than $11,400. For decades, he trekked to the library, where he checked out most of the books he read.

On about 15,700 index cards that he filed in shoe boxes, Fay had chronicled his thoughts on each book, on his travels to China and other places and on the plays and films he saw.

His gift _ the biggest individual donation in the library’s history _ is expected to generate $50,000 to $70,000 a year in interest, to be used toward renovations and the installation of computers in the library’s 53 branches.

Ninety percent of Fay’s money was invested in municipal bonds when he died, said Eileen Thiel, his estate administrator at PNC Bank.

``He lived really a pauper’s existence, so I suppose he was able to save large amounts of money,″ said Lew Bradley, a former student and teaching colleague who inherited the index cards.

Asked once by a student whether he was anti-social, the chemistry and physics instructor Fay replied that he was completely asocial, Bradley said.

``He described himself as a spectator of life,″ Bradley said.

Fay, who lived for more than 30 years in the same rundown apartment, told Bradley in the 1960s that he planned to leave his money to the library. Bradley said he had no idea his friend had so much.

McGinnis, a former secretary who was 87 when she died of congestive heart failure in February, also had let on that she was planned to leave her estate to her church, but no one there realized she had amassed $1.4 million.

Her fortune included $33,000 in cash and $450,000 in government bonds stuffed in a tin box in an old cast-iron stove, where she kept a copy of her will.

``You would look at her and watch her and you would think what comes to mind when you heard the phrase `bag lady,‴ said the Rev. Lawrence DiPaul, pastor of Our Mother of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church.

The lady with the warm smile regularly dropped $50 into the collection plate on Sundays, and a few years ago donated $50,000 to a scholarship fund and $20,000 to repair stained-glass windows and for other renovations.

``I said, `How much money do you have, Mary McGinnis?′ She said, `Oh, over a million.′ But she said it like, `The Phillies are home tonight playing the Dodgers. Traffic was really hectic,‴ DiPaul said.

After her death, DiPaul retrieved the tin box from the old stove. The money will be used for an endowment in the names of McGinnis and her late brother, James, to pay tuition for disadvantaged children at the church school. Some will go toward improving church buildings.

``I was overwhelmed in thinking how happy she must be to know that she’s making such a difference in people’s lives for a long time,″ DiPaul said.

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