How to live forever

Here’s your daily dose of sweetness, courtesy of Mary Divine at the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

People who didn’t have a complete formal education are often quicker to realize the value of one than those who did.

Take Richard Sterbenz and Marty Ryan, of Somerset, Wis., one of whom barely graduated high school, Mary says, and one who didn’t.

Together, they did OK in the money department, though. They ran a meat trading company, real estate firm, convenience stores and several properties. They became millionaires.

It might have been tempting for them to say, “College? We didn’t need no college.”

And yet when they died — Richard in 2016, Marty in 2010 — the couple set aside $4 million for scholarships to 100 kids each year.

The School of Hard Knocks can teach a person a lot. For Richard and Marty, the lessons included giving kids something they never had.

“To me, it’s the American dream to obtain education and move yourself to a different place,” Karen Hansen, a partner at the Winthrop & Weinstine law firm in Minneapolis and a longtime friend, tells Divine. “These scholarships will give students an opportunity to get an education that they wouldn’t otherwise have. So many people, like them, came from families where higher ed wasn’t even given as an option. This is for those kind of kids — where they want to consider it, but financially the path would otherwise be cut off.”

The scholarships will go to students from the St. Croix River Valley attending a vocational-technical school, a two- or four-year college, and to kids attending Metro State University, Century College, or Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.

Perhaps not surprisingly, not many people knew the couple were millionaires. They hired tutors to teach them things they wanted to know.

“If they saw someone who needed help, they would quietly help them,” Hansen said. “They never sought any publicity about that at all.”

“They believed in hands-on jobs and just wanted to help kids who were like them be able to go to school,” she said. “They didn’t get that chance.”

And that is how people live forever.