I had just returned from an early morning run when the phone rang. It was a friend of mine but it was unusual for him to be calling me before 7 a.m. In a quiet voice, he said “John Chadima died last night.” I was dumbfounded. A colleague who just the day before sat at his desk and greeted customers and fellow employees was no longer with us.
For 33 years, John Chadima built a career at this bank. He rose through the ranks and quickly found himself in our Trust Department, where his career really took off. Ask most attorneys in Iowa City and they would tell you that John was at the top of his profession. He had the unique ability to make everyone with whom he came in contact feel special. His customers absolutely adored him. John had the enviable problem of having too much business because he received so many referrals. John’s customers were happy customers! He was at his desk most days by 7:15 a.m. and among the last to leave each evening. John never acted as though work was a burden even though he routinely logged long hours. How lucky to feel this strongly about one’s career.
We featured John in our 2012 annual report. Two quotes will stick with me for a long time. John said “I’m a banker who hates numbers, but I love people.” This was vintage John. He was always focused on delivering exceptional customer service. Which leads to the second memorable quote—speaking of his relationship with our customers, John said he told them “I’m here to make you happy.” Any banker in this great country would have been pleased and proud to work along-side John Chadima.
I will conclude with a story and an admonition. The story comes from John’s former boss at the bank, Suzanne Summerwill. Suzanne says “in the ’90’s, we hired a consultant from Atlanta to consult on how to improve the Trust Department. It was from that engagement that trust – and particularly John – articulated the mission statement: taking care of our customers, and those who should be. We so believed in those 3 key principles Grandpa Ben (the bank’s founder, Ben Summerwill) established and wanted to articulate the proactive component if looking to serve new customers.” How cool is that? John Chadima was one of the authors of the bank’s mission statement and he certainly lived it every day of his splendid career.
And now, the admonition. I am sure John would not have wanted this recognition in this space. After all, this is a person who asked that we give his 25 year service award (normally, a watch) to charity! This epistle would not be complete without a “best practices” reminder. Many of you who are reading this may not have a will. Or, if you have one, it was done years ago and is now outdated. Many of you have heirs who do not get along well with each other. Your estate will be very difficult unless you have professionals administering it. At the very least you should ensure you have a plan and have communicated that plan. I think it is fair to say that John Chadima would be adamant that there is no time like the present to assure your affairs are in order and that doing so is a gift to your loved ones.
Just as John Chadima went to bed one night and did not wake up, so it could be with any of us. Nothing is guaranteed. But we can be prepared and John would not have it any other way.