Who are the heirs to an estate worth nearly a quarter-million dollars, left by a mysterious recluse?
Walter Green, nicknamed “Curly”, lived a quiet, frugal life, alone in a small apartment near downtown Omaha, Nebraska. He was friendly to his neighbors, but kept mostly to himself.
On April 24th, 1978, Curly had a heart attack and died while working in his yard. Everyone who knew him was surprised to find out that he had left behind an inheritance of more than $200,000. But he left no will and his relatives could not be located. Catheryn Saalfeld was one of his old friends:
Josh Butler, a professional heir investigator, was assigned to locate Curly’s next of kin:
It is extraordinary that a man who lived as simply as Curly Green could have accumulated such a large sum of money. But even more extraordinary is that the inheritance remains unclaimed.
Much of Curly’s early life is a mystery. What is known is that when he was only 16, he hopped a train heading for Omaha. Curly jumped off outside the city near a small farming town called Schuyler. He immediately began looking for work. Al Rominger, a local tavern keeper, offered him a ride and a home-cooked meal with his family. Catheryn Saalfeld, the younger of the two Rominger girls, was only nine years-old when she met Curly:
At dinner, Curly didn’t say much about his family or his birthplace in Montana. Catheryn Saalfield:
Al Rominger found Curly a job working at the local garage and he earned enough to move into a boarding house. Now that he was a working man, Curly began to court Catheryn’s older sister, Jessamyn. From the moment he first saw her, Curly was in love. He would never feel the same way about anyone else.
In 1917, when the United States entered the First World War, Curly enlisted in the Army. After serving on the European front, he returned home to Schuyler, and to Jessamyn. Catheryn remembers Curly’s ill-fated relationship with her sister:
Jessamyn ended up marrying another man. Curly never married or had a family of his own. He’d spend the next sixty years alone. In that time, he never talked about his family.
Over the years, Curly saved a considerable fortune. Some suspect the money came from the sale of his rare coin collection. But Catheryn thought he just saved every penny that he ever made:
When he died, Curly left behind more than $200,000 in real estate, stocks, bonds, and cash. So far, no legitimate heirs have claimed the estate. Investigator Josh Butler has researched the case of Curly Green extensively:
Curly said he was born in Kendall, Montana, and had once lived in Denver. He was known to have a collection of gold coins, some of which he might have obtained in Mexico. Apparently, he once received postcards from someone in Brooklyn, New York.
Curly claimed he had a brother who was killed in a shoot-out. He stated that his father, Albert Harry Green, was born in England and that his mother, Ann Mauren Green, was born in Latvia. Neither of Curly’s parents have been found.
Nearly ten years after his death, Curly’s fortune remained the largest unclaimed heir in Nebraska’s history.