Wealth and worth

On July 14, 2015, William Daniel Lee Pryor died, at the age of 88, a wealthy man. In his obituary, a tally of his accounts includes “…friends far too numerous to list.” As an educator, his was a life well lived, and, “…as testimony to his years of dedicated teaching, many former students and colleagues became lifelong friends.”

My friend Warren was one of them. He talked about Lee often, in tones of admiration and respect. I only met Lee once; I mostly knew him through Warren. About Lee, I also know this: Warren is a keen judge of character, and to have won his unqualified friendship tells me a lot about the kind person that was Lee.

Lee had other friends. Among them were Ima Hogg, Leopold Stokowski, Nina Vance, Andre Previn, and Tennessee Williams. In his later years, “…it seemed as if approximately half of the eminent physicians in town were among those admiring ranks.”

His accomplishments in the arts and humanities were remarkable for both their value and sheer number. Many would agree, as his obituary notes, that “…William Lee Pryor was in the running for ‘World’s Most Interesting Man.’”

All this is Lee’s fortune. And, without even the need for a will, many people have already benefitted from it. Lee’s name isn’t that of a forgotten philanthropist on a building somewhere; it’s everywhere in the minds of people fortunate enough to have known him.

Whenever I learn of people like Lee, it makes me reflect on the true nature of wealth. It seems mundane to say real wealth is not money in the bank, yet many people, by the way they live and the activities they pursue, seem to regard it that way.

Financial advisors almost comically misstate the true nature of wealth when they refer to one’s “net worth.” By my calculation, Lee Pryor was fabulously wealthy. Donald Trump and others of his ilk are worthless.

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