MILFORD — A few hours after Thomas Daigle and his wife signed their names to a 35-year mortgage back in 1977, Daigle spotted a one-cent coin in the parking lot and stooped to pick it up. Flipping the cent in the air, he turned to his wife, Sandra.
“A penny toward the mortgage,” Daigle declared.
Sandra laughed. Daigle pocketed the coin, but he had an idea.
Daigle, 60, has finally fulfilled the goal he set for himself decades ago: Arriving at the Milford Federal Savings and Loan Association in April with two 200-pound steel boxes, Daigle paid off the couple’s final mortgage payment with the contents — more than 62,000 pennies.
That day was also the couple’s 35th wedding anniversary. Daigle hopes his story, first reported Wednesday in the Milford Daily News, will teach others the value of good old-fashioned long-term commitment.
“One of my sons always tells me, ‘Dad, you’re stuck in the ’50s,’” Daigle said. “But it’s how you’re brought up, and it comes down to values. I think a lot of people can learn, and our government can learn, about saving a little bit of money.”
Daigle, an optician in Milford who has lived in the area all his life, is a long-time customer of Milford Federal . When he was 10 years old, he opened his first bank account with a few dollars he had earned mowing lawns in the neighborhood.
After Daigle bought his first house in Mendon and decided on his penny-collecting plan, the process was simple: He picked up pennies wherever he went and stuck them in his pocket. At the end of the day, he dropped them in a dish on a table. Once the dish was full, the coins were transferred to an old orange juice bottle. When the bottle was full, he parsed the pennies into cardboard rolls while watching television on snowy or rainy days. The coin rolls went into a cardboard box underneath the work bench in his home workshop.
“I said to myself, ‘You know, this is very doable, paying the mortgage in pennies,’” Daigle said.
Friends and family knew about his plan. Some thought it was a little quirky, but those who knew him well were aware that Daigle always followed through with his plans.
“[My wife’s] response was, ‘That’s my husband!’ And that’s because she knows that if I say I’m gonna do something, I’m gonna do it,” Daigle said.
They purchased another home in Mendon in 1989 to accommodate their two sons. The couple refinanced, but Daigle did not give up his penny-collecting ways.
He kept a tally of the number of coins he had stashed in his workshop. A few years ago, he knew he would have enough to cover the last payment.
After calling the bank to make them aware of his plans, he arrived at Milford Federal on April 24 with his wife and about 400 pounds of rolled-up coins, split between two steel boxes.
It took the bank two days to count the coins, Daigle said, but it turned out his tally was exactly correct — to the cent. The sum was a little more than what Daigle owed, he said, but he did not ask for the surplus.
“I just wanted the pennies out of my house,” Daigle said.
Janice Griffith, Milford Federal’s senior vice president for loans, said the bank was happy to accept the hundreds of coin rolls in payment.
“He’s been a great, loyal customer,” Griffith said. “He fulfilled his dream, and we’re very happy for him.”
Now that the home payments no longer hang over his head, Daigle said his coin-collecting days are over. The time he dedicated to rolling coins on rainy days will now be dedicated to enjoying time with his family.
“I’m collecting grandchildren now instead of pennies,” Daigle said.
Still, on Friday morning as Daigle walked into his office, he spotted a penny on the pavement.
Just as always, he stooped to pick it up.
Good habits, it turns out, are hard to break.