Feb 9, 2011 at 9:11 AM PS
RENTON, Wash. -- Helen Dyrdal was a frugal woman. She lived with broken furniture and tattered clothes.
But the 91-year-old stunned many people by leaving behind a fortune worth millions.
"She wore her clothing so long that the thread wore out," said best friend Goldie Ericson. "So the impression was that that was out of necessity. There was no other reason for it."
With no family left, she asked Ericson to handle her estate. Following her death last March, Ericson started opening her financial statements and got a shock.
"Oh, there would be things like $336,000," she said, "and they kept rolling in."
Turns out she'd squirreled away more than $3 million.
"It was total and complete surprise," Ericson said. "It was as though I had stumbled onto something that I had no knowledge of, ever."
The next stunner came with Dyrdal's will -- all the money was to be given to charities.
"Half a million (dollars). It's our largest single donation we've every received," said Gary Crumb of Providence Hospice of Seattle.
Providence Hospice of Seattle says with the tight economy, the gift couldn't come at a better time.
"(It will) fund part of our pediatric hospice, which cares for children that are terminally ill," said Crumb.
The Salvation Army in Renton will use $500,000 in donation for family services.
"We are very grateful to her for this big donation. It makes a big difference and we've already started working on expanding the building using that money," said Capt. Terry Masango.
Ericson says her friend was very private, but wanted to send a message with the gifts she left behind.
"She said, 'I want people to recognize that I am a good person at heart,"' said Ericson.
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