Throughout his life, Chicagoan Russ Gremel has been loved and respected in his community for his generosity. Residing in the same Jefferson Park home for his nearly 98 years of life, he is well known for all the time he has devoted to mentoring young men in the community in over 60 years as a scoutmaster in the local Boy Scout troop.
Less known, until recently, was the money that the man of simple tastes had been accumulating for over 70 years in the $1,000 worth of Walgreens stock he had bought as a young man, now worth more than $2 million.
Instead of spending any of his growing fortune on himself, Gremel, who says he didn’t need the money to live, let it accumulate until recently, when he donated the entire amount to the Illinois Audubon Society to open a new wildlife refuge in the area.
"You have to do some good in this world," Gremel said. "That's what money is for."
Gremel, who loves nature, decided to give the money while he was still alive to “have the pleasure and enjoyment of seeing it.” And indeed, he was there to see the nearly 400-acre park, which is dedicated in his name, opened to the public in early June.
Gremel has, he says, lived a “hell of a good life” without spending that money on himself. A Northwestern law graduate and a veteran of two wars, Gremel lived simply and worked hard enough to enable himself to retire at 45, dedicating his time after that to recreation, reading, and the Scouts.
Now, to the gifts that he has given his community throughout his life, Gremel has added the gift of the Gremel Wildlife Sanctuary which Illinois residents can enjoy for years to come, and which he enjoys alongside them.