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'Thanks, Leo': Oregon town remembers beloved benefactor on his birthday every June 21

Leo Adler (S. John Collins photo courtesy Baker City Herald/File)

BAKER CITY, Ore. - Have you heard about the life and legacy of the late Leo Adler?

Adler was born June 21, 1895, in Baker City, Oregon.

He started selling magazines on the streets of the northeastern Oregon town at the age of 9.

By the age of 20, Adler had launched a magazine distribution business with annual sales of 3 million magazines across the West.

A self-made millionaire, Adler lived simply in his childhood home on Baker City's Main Street. The house is now a museum.

Over the years, he donated to the local hospital and fire department, paying for new ambulances - and ordering steak dinners delivered to the fire station.

Adler helped organize and raise funds to establish the Anthony Lakes ski area, which boasts the highest base elevation (7,100 feet) of any Oregon ski area.

He also provided financial support for the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, donating more than $100,000 to create a destination experience about the Oregon Trail.

Adler loved baseball, supporting youth baseball at home (and attending 20 consecutive World Series).

He helped recruit the East-West Shrine Game to town.

You get the picture:

The list of Adler's philanthropic efforts in life goes on and on.

"I just feel I owe it to the community because I got my start here," he said in 1988 as he shared a windfall profit with local schools, the library, museum and fire department.

Adler's philanthropy outlived him.

By the time of his death at the age of 98 in 1993, Adler had accumulated a legacy of philanthropy - and a personal fortune.

A life-long bachelor, Adler left his entire $20 million estate to support Baker County in perpetuity.

Graduates of the local high schools can apply for scholarships to support college and graduate education.

And local community organization can seek annual financial support for their efforts to make Adler's beloved Baker even better.

So if you ever happen to find yourself in Baker City on June 21, don't be surprised to see signs or hear people saying: "Thanks, Leo."

MORE | Leo Adler Biography | Leo Adler Obituary | The Associated Press on Adler's life and legacy

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