Saint Francis among benefactors of surprise millionaire twins

April 15, 2014

Hartford, Conn.'s Saint Francis Foundation has received a $900,000 gift from the estates of a twin brother and sister whose modest lifestyle in nearby Simsbury, Conn., had given no hint of their accumulated millions.

Robert and Kathleen Magowan lived together in a home their parents left them in Simsbury — about 13 miles from Hartford — and both twins were single. Robert was a military veteran and insurance agent who died in June 2010 at age 85. Kathleen was a nurse who switched careers in the 1950s to become a first grade teacher — she taught until her retirement. She died in August 2011 at age 87.

According to Harry Smith of "NBC Nightly News," who covered the twins' story in December 2013, "No one in Simsbury knew that Kathleen Magowan had a secret — a very big secret. Turns out Magowan was a millionaire several times over. And when she died, most of that money went to the institutions she loved."

The twins' father had left them blue chip stocks and war bonds; and the two "rarely touched their inheritance," according to an attorney quoted in the NBC broadcast. Robert had quietly invested his and his sister's money, according to information from Saint Francis; and at the time of Kathleen's death, the estates were valued at nearly $10 million.

During her lifetime, Kathleen had had no idea how much she was worth, according to the lawyer interviewed on NBC. He said she thought her estate was valued at about $40,000.

After Kathleen's death, attorneys took "quite some time" sorting through the Magowans' "hidden assets … financial documents, stock and bond certificates, including war bonds from the 1940s stored in a Quaker Oats can in their kitchen," according to information from Saint Francis.

Saint Francis is one of more than a dozen institutions that have received bequests from the estates.

Kathleen Magowan worked as a nurse in Saint Francis' neonatal intensive care unit in the late 1940s, and she had been an annual donor to the hospital since 1987. The unrestricted gifts from the twins' estates will go "to the area of greatest need in the hospital," a hospital spokeswoman said.

Saint Francis is renaming its library in the Magowans' honor and listing their names in the membership of the Valencia Society, which is for people who include Saint Francis in their estate plans.

Robert Magowan served in World War II and was an agent for Prudential Insurance. After earning her master's in education, Kathleen Magowan taught elementary school for 35 years, according to her obituary. After her retirement she was an active volunteer.

Late last year, local and national press covered the revelation of the twins' hidden millions. In the NBC News report, a member of the Simsbury school board of education said Kathleen Magowan was "all about giving, not getting."


Copyright © 2014 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2014 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.