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The Hero of Canton, the man they called Mr. B. Virdot
December 21, 2010 10:37 AM   Subscribe

In 1933, a mysterious benefactor posted an ad in the local Canton, Ohio paper, offering some Christmas funds to people who might otherwise shy away from asking for aid, even in those tough times. That Anonymous Giver went by the pseudonym "Mr. B. Virdot," and ended up giving some money to 150 families and people in town who wrote in with their personal stories. The unknown person's identity was never revealed, and his true identity was not even known to his grandson, until the mysterious benefactor's daughter gave her son, Ted Gup, a battered suitcase full of letters and checks signed by "Mr. B. Virdot". The mysterious man was Samuel J. Stone, a Jewish man whose family had fled Romania when he was young. Stone had done well in the United States, and owned a small chain of clothing stores in 1933. The story of the mysterious gifts hasn't faded from Canton, and on November 5 of this year, Stone's grandson, Gup, gave a public talk to the community and decedents of the original recipients of Virdot's gifts. And now, Canton residents are bringing back the spirit of Virdot.

Ted Gup's talk with his former hometown brought people together to remember a welcomed gift in hard times, people who hadn't known the identity of their generous neighbor was until Gup contacted them as part of his research for the book "A Secret Gift".

Now a trio of local benefactors are bringing back the spirit of Virdot to Canton. The spirit of giving keeps growing, from their initial $15,000, "up to more than $48,000 in the week before Christmas," according to an NPR story aired this morning. And from that story, the offers for donations have come in from Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.
posted by filthy light thief (16 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great post! I recently saw this on tv....somewhere, and am looking forward to seeing more about it. Thanks.
posted by nevercalm at 10:55 AM on December 21, 2010


Somewhat related, The Secret Santa of Joplin: $450,000 and Counting.
posted by kmz at 11:16 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


So... they didn't call him Jayne?
posted by Nauip at 11:18 AM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Last year I interviewed Ted about his last book Nation of Secrets and he gave a preview of the B. Virdot story (towards the end of our conversation). Couldn't be a better person to tell his grandfather's story.
posted by billcicletta at 11:23 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is hilarious and mildly creepy because I was watching that episode exactly when you posted this. GET OUT OF MY MIND.

Also, wonderful story.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:36 AM on December 21, 2010


Nauip: So... they didn't call him Jayne?

Nope. Unlike some other supposed heroes, Sam Stone didn't rob from the rich to give to the poor.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:52 AM on December 21, 2010


I recently saw this on tv...

CBS Sunday Morning: "B. Virdot" and His Secret Gifts.
posted by ericb at 12:18 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Longer piece by the author & more pictures in the December Smithsonian.
posted by djb at 12:39 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Kropotkin was right! Cooperation and Mutual Aid are factors of evolution.
posted by Twang at 12:50 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dammit those seasonal allergies are making my eyes and nose run.

This heathen nonchristian cynic who never celebrates xmas now has something else to consider over the holiday season, instead of my usual favorite, O Henry's "Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen."
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:53 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for sharing this. My dad grew up in Dover, just south of Canton; I'm sure he remembers B. Virdot from his childhood.
posted by me3dia at 3:25 PM on December 21, 2010


Thanks for the happy and tenderly felt tears your post brought to my eyes. What a beautiful and inspiring story.
posted by nickyskye at 9:19 PM on December 21, 2010


Little known fact: B. Virdot and D.B. Cooper are THE SAME PERSON. dun dun dun
posted by IvoShandor at 10:34 PM on December 21, 2010


I think you can make a case that it is the well-to-do who have known poverty at some point who are the most generous and compassionate. The trust fund to hedge fund career track does not produce people like this, which does not bode well for the future.
posted by words1 at 11:08 PM on December 21, 2010


I think you can make a case that it is the well-to-do who have known poverty at some point who are the most generous and compassionate.

You could try, but research shows it's actually the poor who are still poor who are most generous and compassionate. It's easy to help people out when you've got plenty to spare. It takes a fair bit more to do it when you don't necessarily have enough for yourself.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:29 AM on December 22, 2010


Late follow-ups, from various sources:
Canton Repository - Dec. 25, 2010: Caring community revives spirit of B. Virdot
CBS - Dec. 27, 2010: "Ghost of Christmas Past" Donors Uphold Legacy (and associated video)
NPR - Dec. 28, 2010: What Motivates Charitable Donations (audio and transcript)
Canton Rep - Jan. 2, 2011: Stark 20/20 — Focusing on the future of Stark County ("And we’ve all seen what Stark County “people power” can accomplish. “B. Virdot” — need I say more?")
posted by filthy light thief at 12:36 PM on January 10, 2011


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