It was shortly before Christmas, 1933 during the worst of The Great Depression.
In Canton, Ohio, as in much of the world, families had been ravaged. Jobs were scarce and many people had lost their jobs and their homes.
Some families were broken up, as the children were sent to live with anyone who could feed and house them.
Many children wore worn-out clothing and had cardboard patches in their shoes. Some girls wore burlap sacks their mothers had sewn into dresses.
Then one day, a mysterious ad appeared in a local Canton newspaper.
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In this ad someone named B. Virdot offered to help those in desperate need prior to Christmas. He asked only that they write to him, describing their dire circumstances.
The ad said B. Virdot was not his real name, nor would the world ever know his real identity. He said those who wrote to him would also remain anonymous.
Immediately, letters poured into the post office.
In response, $5 checks (close to $100 in today's money) were mailed to 150 families, checks those families were thankful to receive.
Although nobody knew who B. Virdot was, they wrote letters of gratitude to the address in the ad.
Decades after, when B. Virdot passed away, his identity still remained a secret.
Then 75 years after that fateful Christmas, in 2008 in Kennebunk, Maine - 600 miles from Canton, writer Ted Gup was handed an old battered suitcase by his 80 year old mother.
It contained "some old papers," she said, and as Ted read those papers and saw those ancient cancelled checks and letters of gratitude, this astonishing story began to come alive.
B. Virdot was his grandfather.
B. Virdot's real name was Sam Stone, and why he gave this money was fascinating in itself.
Sam Stone and family
Sam was an Orthodox Jewish refugee, who arrived in the U.S. from Romania in his early teens.
He knew poverty and hunger well, and to survive, had worked in a coal mine and subsequently washed soda bottles until the acidic cleanser began to damage his fingertips.
But later, with hope and hard work, he built a successful men's clothing store, and achieved some financial security.
In writing those checks, Sam expressed his gratitude to the nation that had welcomed him despite his Jewish roots, and he provided a helping hand to those suffering in poverty as he had done.