Talk of the Town
Or at least it was until it became rich. At a town meeting Nov. 15, the citizens of Osgood learned that a local couple—Gilmore Reynolds, who died at age 91 in 1990, and his wife, Golda, who passed away at age 98 last year—had left $23 million to the community that was their lifelong home. The windfall, which exceeds the assessed value of every business and building in town, will be doled out by a foundation in grants totaling about $1 million each year—three times the town's annual budget.
Which leaves Osgood with plenty to talk about besides Ike: not only how to spend the money—an expanded library, fresh sidewalks and a YMCA are possibilities—but, more intriguingly, how in a town too small for secrets the Reynoldses kept their vast wealth quiet.
While most townsfolk knew that Gilmore and Golda were pretty well-off, few had any idea just how well. A quiet couple who kept to themselves, the pair made their fortune playing the stock market from an office in the basement of their simple, two-story stucco home. "We were poor, and they were just like us," recalls Wilma Greene, 79, who lived next door with her husband, Vyrell, 88, for 26 years. "Even though they had money, they didn't make you feel different."
Indeed, the Reynoldses, who had no children, were far from flashy. Apart from two small condos they owned in Florida, their only indulgences were a new Cadillac every couple of years and occasional trips abroad. Friend Donna Hooten recalls Golda describing a cruise on which she and Gilmore had traveled first-class: "Donna, don't ever do it," she told her. "It's not worth it."
Not to say they were stingy—far from it. "The only new dresses my daughters ever got were what Goldie gave them at Christmas," notes Greene. "They were generous with their money," adds Paul Black, 69, a nephew, who claims not to mind that such a generous gift was bestowed upon the town. "If you went out to eat with them, they always paid."
Though they could have lived anywhere, the Reynoldses stuck to their roots. Both Gilmore and Golda were born in Ripley County, which encompasses Osgood. He was an adventurer who grew up on a farm, flew airplanes, raced cars and started out in business as a partner in a Chevrolet dealership in 1922. She was an elementary school teacher who met Gilmore on his car lot, which she walked past on her way to work each day. After marrying in 1928, they went into the wholesale snack-food business together until a boom in fuel-powered appliances prompted them in 1946 to turn to selling bottled gas.
Although they began investing in stocks as early as the 1930s, it became their preoccupation only after they retired in 1964. "They spent all their waking hours doing this," says Golda's attorney Neil Comer. "They loved every minute of it." And doted on each other. "They were very close," says Donna Hooten. "What made him happy made her happy and vice versa."
Now they've made an entire town happy. And while the private Reynoldses would probably have shied away from the TV cameras that have converged on the town these past two weeks, locals like Car-lesta Brook are glowing. "We're just so elated," she says, "that our little town is finally being recognized."
Angela T. Koenig in Osgood