youtube.com/CBS New York
youtube.com/CBS New York

Teacher Lives Modestly in Parents' Old House, Whole School Finds Out She's a Millionaire after Her Death

Salwa Nadeem
Jun 16, 2022
06:00 P.M.

A New Jersey school teacher spent most of her life repeating the same outfits and not splurging on little things that could make her happy. She had also stopped going on vacations after her husband's death. It wasn't until her demise that the entire school discovered her biggest secret: she was a millionaire.


What's your biggest secret? For some people, it can be something terrible they did in the past that makes them feel guilty. For others, it might be an embarrassing incident that they can't discuss with their friends and family.

It takes a lot of courage for people to open up about their secrets even before the person they trust the most. While many people ultimately tell their secret to others, others stay quiet about it till their last breath.

Genevieve Via Cava. | Source: youtube.com/CBS New York

Genevieve Via Cava. | Source: youtube.com/CBS New York


Genevieve Via Cava was a passionate teacher who loved her students. She worked with students with disabilities in Dumont, New Jersey, and enjoyed every moment she spent at school.


The hard-working teacher devoted 45 years of her life working with middle and high school students. Everyone knew her as one of the best teachers because she was perfect at what she did.

People who knew Via Cava closely were aware of her spending habits. She rarely dined out in restaurants or wore flashy clothes. The special needs teacher believed in saving money to the extent that she didn't even buy a hearing aid when she needed it the most.

Dumont Public School District. | Source: youtube.com/CBS New York

Dumont Public School District. | Source: youtube.com/CBS New York


Since Via Cava didn't have children, she didn't have a lot of monthly expenses. She lived in her parent's old house and didn't have many close relatives. Whenever her friend, Richard Jablonski, asked her to buy a hearing aid for herself, she would say:


"Don't be foolish with money, Richard. It's not how much money you earn. It's how much you save."

Jablonski ran a clothing store Via Cava visited and bought clothes only from the rack labeled "70% off" until she passed away at the age of 89.

Richard Jablonski. | Source: youtube.com/CBS New York

Richard Jablonski. | Source: youtube.com/CBS New York


Although Via Cava had no immediate family members, her death affected many people. She passed away in 2011, leaving her students and ex-colleagues sad.

During her last days, Via Cava fell ill but refused to go to the hospital. Jablonski visited her twice a day and always suggested seeing a doctor, but she never listened to him.


One day, Jablonski got a call from a bank teller, informing her that Via Cava couldn't stand straight and asked him to come because she wasn't feeling well. Jablonski told him to call the ambulance and immediately left for the hospital. A few minutes later, he got a call and discovered that his lovely friend had passed away.

Richard Jablonski. | Source: youtube.com/CBS New York

Richard Jablonski. | Source: youtube.com/CBS New York


Before her death, Via Cava nominated Jablonski as the executor of her will. He was shocked to know how much money she had saved. He recalled:

"She'd call and say, 'I want to leave $100,000 to the Salvation Army,' and 'I want to leave $100,000 each to county animal shelters,' and 'Let's add a $100,000 donation to the hearing center.' She certainly had a generous heart."


After Via Cava's death, Jablonski inherited her house and was responsible for fulfilling her last wishes. Seven years after her death, people were shocked to know what she had left for her beloved students.

Emanuele Triggiano. | Source: youtube.com/CBS New York

Emanuele Triggiano. | Source: youtube.com/CBS New York


Dumont School District received a check worth $1 million from Via Cava's estate. She dedicated her earnings to special needs students who wanted to continue post-secondary education. Her generous donation would be used towards a scholarship fund. The district superintendent, Emanuele Triggiano said:

"I wasn't surprised that she was going to be donating something. The surprise was the amount of money she sent to us."


Triggiano revealed that Via Cava's gift would help them award scholarships worth up to $25,000 yearly. He also said the scholarship funds would ultimately generate enough money through interest to continue awarding scholarships in the long run.


Since Via Cava's efforts and intentions were pure, she ultimately managed to leave something behind after her death that would benefit students with disabilities. Jablonski said:


"I know she'd be thrilled to hear that the interest alone from her $1 million gift to the school district will pay for a scholarship every year."

Jablonski felt it was "unbelievable" that Via Cava's name would live forever through the scholarship fund. He felt proud of his generous friend, who suppressed her desires to provide a better future for the children she adored the most.

Do you think Via Cava did the right thing by not buying things for herself to save money? Would you do the same if you were a passionate teacher who sympathized with special needs children?

Click here to read another story about a boy who took his mother's last $12 to start a business while living in a shed. Her mother took the leap of faith and trusted her 8-year-old son.

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