Humble Everett investor leaves a rich gift to students

Tony Bozich worked as a waiter and died a millionaire.

He lived simply, in a downtown Everett apartment. He had no car, no TV, not even a telephone. He never graduated from high school.

What he did have was a knack for investing in the stock market.

“He read the Wall Street Journal every day. And he amassed a great deal of money — millions,” said Jack Decker, who worked with Bozich as his investment adviser for more than 20 years.

A man of strong opinions, Bozich was troubled to see Japanese carmakers and electronics firms eclipse American companies. He believed our country needs more scientists and engineers.

“He’d say, ‘We’ve got enough stockbrokers, bankers and lawyers. We don’t need any more of you guys,’ ” Decker said Thursday.

A decade before Bozich died, in 2004 at age 94, he put his money where his heart was. He donated a significant chunk of his holdings as an endowment to fund scholarships given each year by the Rotary Club of Everett. This year’s $64,000 Bozich gift was part of $228,950 given to 2009 graduates at the Rotary’s May 19 scholarship luncheon.

The Bozich funds were distributed in four $16,000 scholarships, all for students pursuing math, science or medicine. These and stellar graduates from years past and into the future will live their dreams because of one man’s generosity.

Decker and Greg Tisdel, an Everett Rotary member who also came to know Bozich as a friend, tell an incredible story of wealth built from a humble life.

Bozich told Decker he’d grown up in upper Michigan and ended up in an orphanage. “He and two other guys decided to leave one day, at 14,” Decker said. Bozich told of working in logging camps in the 1920s.

“The best job he ever had, he was a waiter at a Cincinnati country club,” Decker said. There, Bozich had told him, an older woman at the club suggested he start saving $5 from each paycheck and invest in the stock market. She convinced him to read the Wall Street Journal and even gave him old copies of the paper.

Bozich was divorced and had no children. Tisdel, a former Everett Rotary president, said Bozich had a sister, now deceased, who lived in Marysville. He believes Bozich came to Snohomish County to be close to her.

As he befriended Bozich, Tisdel saw the man’s frugal ways. “He was an old-fashioned gentleman’s gentleman,” said Tisdel, who also saw the elderly man’s unique character. “If you saw him walking down the street with his two plastic bags, you might think he was a street person,” he said.

Bozich lived his last few years in an Everett retirement center. Until then, he lived alone in an apartment on Everett’s Colby Avenue.

A champion of Everett Transit, Bozich would get on a bus, get a cheeseburger and a cup of coffee at the 41st Street McDonald’s, and be home in half an hour, Tisdel said. “And he could have spent all day doing whatever he wanted,” he added.

Bothered by what he saw as wasteful spending, Bozich once commented about “all the waste” he saw at the Everett Marina. When Tisdel was taking him to a Rotary meeting on the waterfront, he said he heard Bozich say, “I watch those boats every day. Those people don’t even move them.”

Decker said his client had wanted to make a donation to a university, he but changed his mind after reading about how proceeds from some endowment funds were spent. With Decker in the Rotary at the time, the idea of local scholarships won Bozich’s heart.

He’d attend the scholarship luncheons and offer a few sage words. Tisel said he’d ask, “Do you want to say anything to the kids this year?” And the man would say, “Set your goals, stick to your goals, and you’ll succeed. That’s what I did.”

Decker’s eccentric client often wouldn’t take the investment advice he heard. “He didn’t go with what I said. He’d read the Wall Street Journal and go to the library. He did a lot on his own, with good common sense,” said Decker, who met Bozich when he worked for the Foster &Marshall investment company.

Tisdel said the man would joke about an investor’s dream: “He always used to say that if you really want to get ahead, figure out a way to get that Wall Street Journal a day before anybody else.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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