WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 3-9, 2010)


Rich beyond counting with compassion for the poor; Tom White, one of Boston’s greatest philanthropists, dies at the age of 90.” By Bryan Marquard. Boston Globe. January 8, 2011. How much money did Tom White give away before he died yesterday at 90? More than $75 million over his lifetime, he estimated several years ago, but the total is difficult to gauge because he started sending checks to charities as a young man, when his savings barely topped $1,000 and he did not know his gifts would some day measure in the millions of dollars. How many lives did he save or improve? No easy answers there, either. Partners in Health, which he helped found in 1987 and to which he gave millions, has saved uncounted lives in Haiti and other developing countries where the poor die of illnesses such as drug-resistant tuberculosis and AIDS. And Mr. White contributed to dozens of other charities, nudging a seemingly endless stream of lives in new directions simply by keeping a wad of bills in his pocket. He would slip a $20 bill to the employee cleaning toilets at McDonald’s. Once, a homeless woman in Harvard Square told him her life would be better if she had a red wagon to cart redeemable bottles. She burst into tears the next day when he showed up pulling a red wagon. Mr. White, who made his fortune building J.F. White Contracting into one of Boston’s biggest companies, said that after making sure his family was taken care of financially, he set out to die as close to penniless as possible. With his family by his side, he died yesterday morning at his home in the Auburndale neighborhood of Newton. He lived his life with but a single regret. “I’m sorry I don’t have more money to give away,’’ he told the Globe in 2004.

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