A legal secretary who grew up in the Great Depression and died late last year had quietly amassed over $9 million through decades of investments, leaving most of it to needy students.
The New York Times reported Monday that $6.24 million from the estate of Sylvia Bloom, 96, has been given to the Henry Street Settlement; another $2 million will be split between Hunter College and another scholarship fund to be announced.
Bloom grew up in Brooklyn and earned a degree from Hunter at night while working days to make ends meet. In 1947, she joined the firm of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.
“She was a secretary in an era when they ran their boss’ lives, including their personal investments,” said her niece, Jane Lockshin. “So when the boss would buy a stock, she would make the purchase for him, and then buy the same stock for herself, but in a smaller amount because she was on a secretary’s salary.”
Paul Hyams, a human resources executive for the firm who became good friends with Bloom, recalled seeing her trudging out of the subway toward work in the middle of a fierce snowstorm when she was 96.
“I said, ‘What are you doing here?’ and she said, ‘Why, where should I be?’” he recalled.
She retired around that time, agreeing to move to a senior residence mainly because “she wanted to find a good bridge game,” said a cousin, Flora Mogul Bornstein.
Bloom died not long after, in 2016. Her late husband, Raymond Margolies, was a firefighter who retired and then became a schoolteacher with a pharmacist career on the side.
Lockshin said it’s “very possible” that not even he knew the size of his independent-minded wife’s fortune.
“I realized she had millions and she had never mentioned a word,” Lockshin said. “I don’t think she thought it was anybody’s business but her own.”