(CNN) — Four years ago, one of the happiest days of Kira Conard’s life carried a cloud of sadness.
At a high school graduation party, her friends were buzzing with excitement about their next steps. Many were going to college, but the aspiring therapist in Des Moines, Iowa, scarcely had the heart to tell them she couldn’t go. Her family just couldn’t afford it.
Raised by a single parent with three older sisters, “paying for all four of us was never an option,” she told CNN affiliate KCCI. But then she got a call from a stranger offering a scholarship.
“I broke down into tears immediately,” she said.
The man on the other end of the line told her that her dreams would be funded by an angel named Dale Schroeder.
A lifetime of honest work now benefits others
Born in 1919, Schroeder worked as a carpenter for 67 years at the same business in Des Moines. When he died in 2005, he had amassed almost $3 million in savings.
Schroeder had owned two pairs of jeans, one for work and one for church, his friend Steve Nielsen, a lawyer, told KCCI. He never married and had no living descendents.
Before his death, Schroeder walked into Nielsen’s office and told him he wanted to start a scholarship. He hadn’t had the chance to go to college but wanted others to be able to get an education.
Nielsen described Schroeder as a “blue-collar, lunch-pail kind of guy.”
Since his death in 2005, that money has been doled out to 33 Iowans.
“Dale’s Kids” met for dinner on Saturday to catch up on each other’s lives and to honor the man who made their dreams possible. They sat around the old carpenter’s lunch pail to share updates on their lives. Many are now doctors, teachers and therapists.
Conard, whose dream of becoming a therapist has been financed by the fund, is the last person to receive one of Schroeder’s scholarships; after putting 33 students through school, his fund is finally tapped out.
“For a man that would never meet me to give me basically a full ride to college, that’s incredible. That doesn’t happen,” she said.
Schroeder’s legacy lives on as Dale’s Kids are making their mark on the world.
“All we ask is that you pay it forward,” Nielsen said. “You can remember him, and you can emulate him.”
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