The Magowans – The Elderly Multi-Millionaire Twins Next Door

Kathleen Magowan lived in a house on Hopmeadow Street in Simsbury while she amassed an estate worth $6 million. (Left: Estate of Kathleen Magowan; Right: John Woike)

The gift is the biggest in at least 33 years in Simsbury, and nothing comes close in Tedone's 17 years on the board.

"This is definitely the largest gift,'' said Tedone, who also serves as the statewide president of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education. "This, by far, is the largest.''

School Superintendent Matthew Curtis said a former colleague remembered Magowan as "a consummate professional.'' In class photos, the 5-foot-4-inch Magowan, modestly dressed, stands proudly with her first-grade students.

During her life, Magowan made regular contributions to charities that never generated widespread attention. The annual report for the McLean home, the Simsbury nursing home where she died, listed Magowan with many others in 2010 under the "Friends of McLean'' who each gave $250. She is not mentioned at all among the home's Top 100 donors.

When she died, however, she left McLean $419,000.

"All of us remember her very much as the schoolteacher who always had a twinkle in her eye,'' said Deene Morris, the fundraising director at McLean. "She always had a sparkle for life. She loved stimulating conversation; ideas and stories. She loved engaging in conversation with all sorts of different people, and everyone loved talking to her. A school teacher. That's how she lived in our hearts.''

At the University of Saint Joseph, the development director who oversees major gifts, Diane Burgess, said she visited Magowan at her Simsbury home before she died. They would share tea and Magowan would reminisce about her days when she commuted to college.

"We had no idea,'' Burgess said, that Magowan's portfolio was so substantial. "She was low-key, sweet, compassionate. You would never know.''

Family Fortune

The Magowan family fortune started with the work of Kathleen's father, William, who served as the chief financial officer of Ensign-Bickford, a historic company in Simsbury that is known for making explosives. An accountant, William moved the family to Alaska and Bolivia for various jobs before eventually settling in one of the "Ensign-Bickford houses'' that the firm built along Hopmeadow Street.

Young Kathleen grew up in one of those houses near the Simsbury firehouse and then moved to a second Bickford home that she eventually owned after her parents died.

As the decades went by, Magowan changed virtually nothing from the days when her parents lived in the home. A sister, Patricia, became a medical doctor in the 1940s.

"The clothes in the closet were still there from the parents,'' said George, recalling the discoveries when the lawyers went through the house. "Still in the drawer in 2012 was the minutes of the 1955 Ensign-Bickford board meeting.''

As her father was climbing the corporate ladder, Kathleen was learning in school. She graduated from St. Joseph's College in West Hartford with a degree in the first nursing class in 1947. After working for several years in the pediatric unit at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, she decided to switch careers and teach in elementary school. She eventually received a master's degree in education in 1953 from Hillyer College, which is now the University of Hartford. That led to a long career in the Simsbury public schools before she retired in 1984.

Living a frugal lifestyle, Magowan had relatively few expenses. With no children or grandchildren, she had no day care expenses or college tuition. She had no mortgage after inheriting the family home from her parents.

With no children or siblings to receive her money, Magowan turned to her favorite charities. She also had two nephews in California and a niece in North Carolina.

Over the years, her wealth grew steadily, with some of the biggest stock gains from an obscure company known as Ametek Inc., a Pennsylvania-based company that manufactures electrical motors, pumps, and instruments. The company had caught the attention of Robert Magowan, who had lived in Manchester before moving back into the family home with his sister.

"Nobody goes out and buys Ametek stock without researching it,'' Bondanza said.

Barry Horowitz, an attorney for Robert Magowan, said that Robert lived modestly in the same way as other "millionaires next door'' that he has seen during his 27 years of estate planning.

"You never know what anybody has in the way of assets,'' Horowitz said. "I deal with this all the time all day long. There is very little correlation between how someone lives and how much they have. Everybody is different. I just saw someone recently who has an estate of $20 million, and they live extremely modestly. How someone lives is not necessarily a reflection of what they have.''

Under the Radar

For a lifetime, the Magowan twins flew almost completely under the radar in Simsbury. John K. Hampton, a state legislator and former deputy first selectman who has lived in the town his entire life, said he had never heard of Kathleen Magowan.

"I do not know that person at all,'' said Hampton, adding that longtime First Selectman Mary Glassman also was in the dark.

Now, however, Kathleen Magowan's generosity has made her an unforgettable figure in the town where she spent most of her life.

At the Simsbury school board, Tedone remembers when she first heard about the donation as the word was starting to spread.

"It put a smile on our faces,'' Tedone said. "We looked out the window and looked up to her in heaven, saying, 'Thank you.' She is probably smiling down on us.''