Local news

Widow gets cash stash

Consignment store employees find $10,000 her husband had tucked away in a desk

A Coeur d’Alene man sequestered no secrets during his 61 years of marriage – except for $10,000 cash stashed in a desk.

Ellen Milow, 85, said her husband, Gunter Milow, was a frugal man. They immigrated to the United States in 1956 from Germany. Growing up during World War II, he knew how to save money, she said. She didn’t know, however, he was tucking away cash into a calculator case.

He died suddenly last year from cancer. It wasn’t until Milow was downsizing and sold a desk to a Spokane Valley consignment shop that his wife learned the truth.

“Usually it’s just stuff,” Dennis McGuire, an employee at The Central Stop, said of the consignment items he receives. He finds coins and office supplies, but never a thick stack of $100 bills, he said. “I imagine my eyes got really big,” McGuire said.

The discovery shocked Milow when McGuire’s son, Daniel, called her to arrange the return of the money.

“It’s the honest thing to do; it wasn’t my money,” he said.

She and her husband never talked about money, Milow said. She believes he saved because he feared economic upheaval, recalling money problems during the war. But another part of Milow believes he did it for her. Milow wrote of financial turmoil frequently in letters to the editor in local newspapers. He hoped for financial transparency among banks, government agencies and insurance companies, he explained in a 2010 letter to the editor in The Spokesman-Review.

Her husband didn’t want to be rich, Milow said. He desired only a comfortable life with her. It didn’t matter where they were.

“We always had a good time. For us, it was always beautiful,” she said.

Milow did not relish the newfound wealth. She gave the McGuires a reward and took the flat bundle of bills straight to the bank, she said.

“That was the end of that; I didn’t even touch it,” Milow said.

The couple saved every year for a vacation. When Milow tried to find their wedding photos, all she could dig out of the closet were vacation photographs highlighting their trips throughout the United States, Canada and Germany.

Before Gunter Milow’s death, they took one last adventure to British Columbia – driving to Powell River and Vancouver Island. She hoped for another trip to Sandpoint, but he became too weak for the hourlong drive.

He felt sick for two years before doctors diagnosed his cancer. She took him to the hospital on a Friday in November. The next day, he could no longer speak, and by Tuesday he was gone.

Three gold rings adorn Milow’s hand. Her engagement ring is nearest to the heart – leaving her finger only once since the day he proposed to her on Christmas Day in 1949.

Now, his wedding ring sits in the middle alongside a ring commemorating the couple’s 50th anniversary.

Milow said her husband always planned for the future – asking her parents for permission to marry and then saving up for a rainy day.

He only wanted her to be taken care of, Milow said.

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