Canadian millionaire donates life savings to an English town to plant 100,000 daffodils – they are now blooming

Sidmouth, Devon in southwest England, is filled with blooms every spring.

This amazing phenomenon was possible thanks to Keith Owen, a Canadian millionaire who is also a successful investment banker. He planned to settle down in the small town.

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After being diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2007, Owen left his life savings of £2.3 million (around $3 million) to a voluntary countryside conservation society in Sidmouth.

He contacted the Sid Vale Association and told them he wanted his money to “support local projects, which made use of voluntary labor, and in particular to sustain the ambiance and way of life, recognized in Sidmouth and its surroundings.”

Owen chose to help Sidmouth because he believed it reflected England as it “used to be.”

Daffodils in bloom in Sidmouth, Devon, England
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To fulfill Owen’s dying wish, the Sid Vale Association used £166,000 (around $218,000) from the donations to plant 153,000 flowers across 50 sites in Sidmouth. The daffodils are shining brightly in the town, bringing joy to both residents and visitors.

“Every year it brings back happy memories of this man who did this amazing thing for the town,” said Ed Harrison of the Sidmouth Civic Society.

The daffodils were originally planted on Peak Hill, Sidmouth. Here people can stop and take photos and enjoy the beautiful views. Aptly, the town refers to the site as the “Valley of a Million Bulbs.”

A little boy looking at daffodils
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A spectator in the area, Julie Hudson, said: “The daffodils are a beautiful golden light in the spring after a dark long winter. It’s about future hope and allowing new growth it puts a spring in your step.”

The entire community comes together to honor Owen’s floral tribute every year.

“In the autumn months, schools, community groups, and other volunteers come together to plant one million bulbs throughout the town, which then blanket the area in beautiful, colorful flowers once the weather gets warmer. Popular places to see the bulbs as they flower are at Peak Hill and the Byes,” reads a website for Sidmouth.

Aside from the blooms, money from Owen’s fund is used to “provide grants to community groups as well as to add to the town’s atmosphere with the Valley of a Million Bulbs event.”

Daffodils in bloom in Sidmouth, Devon, England
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The news of the springtime attraction has spread around the world, making it a major tourist attraction in the area. Tourists who would like to visit can find maps of where the bulbs have been planted on the Sid Vale Association’s Website.

Owen was born in Totnes, England in 1938. He joined the Royal Air Force in the mid-1950s. This began a long and successful career that took Owen all over the globe. He lived in Canada, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia.

He was married to his wife in 1970, but he divorced her after a few years. They had no children.

Daffodils in bloom in Sidmouth, Devon, England
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In 1976, Owen, after nearly two decades of RAF Service, retired with the rank and title of Squadron leader. He established a home in Ottawa, Canada and traveled extensively during his retirement, often stopping in Sidmouth to visit the mother who lived in the town.

He learned that he had only a few months to live during a 2007 visit. Soon after, he contacted Sid Vale Association to leave his retirement fund in their care so that it could be used for a noble cause.

Owen died on December 3, 2007 at the age of 69 in Victoria Hospital, Sidmouth.

Keith Owen, we are grateful for the beautiful legacy you have left in this part.

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