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Banker leaves $3.5 million for hometown to plant flowers

After Keith Owen was given eight months to live, he began to think of how he could make an impression on Sidmouth in Devon, England that would last long after he was gone. According to The Daily Mail, the banker, who was diagnosed with cancer, decided that donating 1 million flowers to the seaside town.

When he died in 2007 at age 69, Owen left $3.58 million to plant 153,000 bulbs so that the town would be even more beautiful than before. The number of bulbs was chosen so 10 flowers would be planted for each of the 17,000 Sidmouth residents. While Owen is a Canadian resident, he regularly made trips to Sidmouth, where his mother had retired. The quaint seaside town, which Owen described as a "picture-perfect English resort," clearly made an impression on him. When he received news of his terminal illness, he instantly consulted with civic leaders and eventually changed his will. 

Finishing the first phase
Finally, the news outlet noted that volunteers are preparing to complete the first part of the project by sowing $258,196 worth of crocuses, snowdrops, daffodils and other varieties of bulbs. A special community day has been dedicated to planting the flowers later this fall. Alan Darrant, chairman of the SVA, explained to The Daily Mail that Owen was detailed in his discussions of how the money was to be spent. 

"On one occasion he said, 'Think of things that will get everyone together – I don't know, plant a million bulbs.' So we're going to do exactly that. We will be planting the bulbs at over 50 sites – roadsides, park land and public gardens. We can then sit back and, in spring, see what has sprung," Darrant stated, according to the source.

The New York Daily News reported that the only reason it took this long for the first wave of planting is that there are strict inheritance laws in place for expats. 

"He was clearly very kind. He loved Sidmouth so much he wanted to ensure it could be preserved," said SVA president Rev Handel Bennett, as quoted by the source.

The Daily Mail noted that already, more than 100,000 visitors come to Sidmouth each year to enjoy its stunning beaches. Moreover, the source explained that the town boasts incredible Victorian architecture, which has been a major tourist lure. As thousands of bulbs finally begin to bloom, Sidmouth will likely have an even bigger draw for visitors.

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