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III.  Family Dilemma

 

Steve pushed the button to clear the line without even waiting for Sam’s response.  He dialed his home number and Sandra immediately picked up the phone.

 

She was crying uncontrollably, but began to soften when she heard Steve’s voice, “Honey, you should not have heard it this way.  Sam and Joan meant well, but sometimes, they just do not know what ‘well’ is.”

 

Sandra began, “Steve, I am more concern about you than I am what Sam or Joan do.  How are you handling everything right now?”

 

Steve said, “It’s a shock, but there is so much that has to be done right now that affects the bank.  I cannot give in to my emotions just yet.”

 

Steve comforted Sandra, “We know Mom and Dad!  They are in a better place and before it is over, we will be the better for having had them for as long as we did.”

 

“If anyone calls, don’t tell them just yet.  There will be plenty of time for that,” he instructed. 

 

Steve continuing, “Look, I am coming by the house to pick you up and we are all going to Mom and Dad’s house to start sorting this out.  Go ahead and call the kids.  They will need to get a flight as soon as they can to get here.”

 

Sandra replied, “I have already called them and they are going to call me back with their flight arrangements.”

 

“Good,” said Steve, “when you hear let me know and I will arrange to have someone pick them up at the airport.  It would be nice if I could go, but there is too much that has to be done here now.”

 

Steve went on, “I need to call Warner right now.  I love you!”

 

Sandra sobbing softly replied, “I love you, Steve!  I will be ready when you get here.”

 

Steve and Sandra always finished off their phone conversations with, “I love you.”  Sandra hung up the phone.

 

She ran to the bathroom to check her face before Steve came.  Her tears surely had taken a toll on her make-up.

 

“Warner, I need your help,” started Steve as Warner was given the phone by his secretary.  “It is not common knowledge just yet, but it will be momentarily.”

 

He began, “Mom and Dad just got killed in a car accident in Nashville this morning.  Officer Melrose gave us the heads up.”

 

Continuing, “The Coroner has not gotten there yet to make his official ruling.  We only have so much time before the press gets this.”

 

Steve asked, “Can you get the folder that Dad developed last November when he was concerned that something like this could happen?  The one with the steps we are to take to save the bank.”

 

“Sam, Junior, and me are going over at Mom and Dad’s house now.  I am on my way right now.  Can you meet us there right away?  We are going to have to move quickly,” asked Steve.

 

Warner replied, “I am leaving right now as well.  I will get the folder and review it enroute.   I will be prepared when I get there.”

 

“I am so sorry to hear this Steve.  Is there anything else that we can do?” asked Warner.

 

“Warner, it goes without saying to tell your office not to release this just yet,” instructed Steve.

 

“No problem with that.  I will see you there!” agreed Warner.

 

Warner informed his secretary he would be out the rest of the day on an emergency.  He asked her to cancel all of his appointments for the balance of the week.  Those that needed to be met – assign them to other lawyers in the firm.

 

Warner knew that a quick meeting with Steve and Sam was not going to solve everything.  With the document preparations and the filings; it would take at least a week.

 

As he started out of his office, Warner handed his secretary a list that had been prepared by Walter.  It was the Board of Directors of the bank and their telephone numbers.

 

He said, “Call the directors of the bank and set up a meeting for Friday morning at the bank.  Tell them that it will be an emergency meeting and that their attendance is mandatory.”

 

Warner explained, “They will hear soon enough why.  Do not and I repeat, do not tell them why we are meeting.”  Warner stuffed the folder in briefcase and picked up his coffee and left the office.

 

Warner had been looking forward to that cup of coffee that morning.  “It had been a tough week,” he thought, “and with the divorce hearings for the Peterson’s coming Monday morning.”

 

“Joe Peterson is going to be a devil of a man to try and get a settlement with all that land,” Warner thought he could assign the case to one of the junior lawyers with the firm and they could handle it.

 

For Warner, “Today was supposed to be casually come to the office; have a cup of coffee; read the local paper; sit down with Collin and discuss where we are on a few of our firm’s cases; and … “

 

“Oh yeah … we were supposed to go over the personnel file to evaluate the young attorneys who have joined us this year,” he thought.

 

Warner’s head was spinning with the meetings that week and with meetings that he was supposed to have today.  He had concerns about one of the new attorneys that needed to be discussed.

 

The board meeting yesterday with the local realtors association should have topped off his week.  They are still clamoring for more input from the city council.

 

“Why I ever accepted the position of City Attorney, I will never know,” Warner admonished himself.  “It is not even a paid position and is taking more and more of my time.”

 

Warner recognized, however, that this was not the day for that.  He must get focused on the events at hand.

 

“There is nothing there that can’t be done later.  This has got to take precedence over everything else,” he concluded.

 

Walking to his car, he instructed his driver, “Berry, take me to the Johnson’s home.”  He got into the car – not even waiting for the driver to open his door.

 

He opened his briefcase and began to thumb through the folder that held the future of the Community Bank of Lebanon.  It could also have an impact on the state.

 

Stopping for a moment, he reflected, “Walter, my friend, my friend … you are going to be missed.”  Warner placed his hands over his face.  He silently apologized to Walter and Dessie for not giving their friendship first priority in his thoughts.

 

Warner knew that filings for changes in the bank management was required by the State Banking Commission and must be approved by them.  It is the same for a change in management due to death of any major bank officer.

 

Walter had always been a careful planner.  In addition to his and Dessie’s will, he had Warner draw up documents for the change of management of the bank should it ever occur as a result of his death.

 

The documents had been approved by the Board of Directors of the bank.  And they had been filed with the State Banking Commission.

 

The community and the State Banking Commission must have the greatest confidence in the new management for a bank to survive an emergency change of management.  And it would be required that they have an immediate audit by the state banking authorities.

 

New positions must be appointed; background filings must be completed; the Board of Directors for the bank must approve everything; and everything had to be above board at all times.

 

His Dad’s plan provided for all of this, but it must be implemented quickly.  The business of the bank must be restored as soon as feasibly possible for the community.

 

Death was a crucial issue, however, the community must be able to function and function it will with Dad’s plan.  Steve felt that he could get the bank back up and running by the first of the week.

 

Steve returned to his car and started the short but now long trip to pick up Sandra.  So much was going through his mind that in the rush, he had forgotten his Mom and Dad were now … gone.

 

He pulled the car over to the curb and laid his head across the steering wheel and began to sob uncontrollably.  They had meant so much to him and now he would never be able to talk to them again or to give them a hug for all they had done for him.

 

It was hard to imagine them gone – but they were.  Regaining his composure, he continued on to get Sandra.  “She loved his Mom and Dad.  It would be hard for her as well,” he thought.

 

Warner put the folder back in his briefcase when he arrived at Walter and Dessie’s home.  He grabbed his coat and told his driver he could leave for about an hour if he wanted to get a cup of coffee somewhere.   “The meeting will be at least that long,” stated Warner.

 

Joan arrived at Walter and Dessie’s home first.  She sat in her car just looking and remembering her first thoughts about the big ole house.

 

It was a traditional southern antebellum home with large columns in front.  The landscaping was immaculate and was always completely manicured.

 

Dessie spent a lot of time working in the yard and you could tell it.  She had people who did the yard, but according to her, it was never exactly as she wanted it.

 

A small beep on a horn shook her from her thoughts as she noticed that Sam was driving up the driveway.  She got out and went quickly to Sam’s car.

 

As Sam stepped from the vehicle, she embraced him and felt his body shaking with emotion.  “Is he really crying?” she thought silently.

 

Sam was not one to show a lot of emotion and this was new to her, but then it was both his Mom and Dad that he had lost in one fell swoop.  If ever there was a time he was entitled to show emotion, this would be it.

 

She felt other arms surrounding them.  Looking up, she saw that Junior had arrived with June and he was holding onto his Dad and her at the same time.

 

“Why … why … could we, as a family, not show this same kind of support for each other under normal circumstances?  Why did it have to be such a devastating circumstances?” wondered Joan.

 

She relished in the moment with a certain amount of understanding as they sought each other for what seemed the first time.  They were a family that cared for each other.

 

Junior let go of Joan and went to June.  She and Junior embraced each other speaking softly while waiting for Steve and Sandra to arrive.

 

They wondered how everyone would get through this.  “This would be a big event in Lebanon,” thought Junior, “Could the bank get past this and survive?”

 

As Junior and June began to move toward the house, they saw Steve and Sandra coming up the driveway.  It appeared to him that the family was circling the wagons to get a handle on the circumstances.

 

Turning in behind them was Warner’s car.  This meeting was going to be a big event.  “It is always big when Warner gets called in,” thought Junior.

 

Junior walked to the house first and opened the door.  Walter and Dessie never locked their doors for as long as anyone could remember.

 

Even the Bonnie and Clyde encounter did not raise enough eyebrows to make a change in their habits.  Walter and Dessie were just trusting people.

 

Junior held the door for June, Joan and Sandra and then followed them in.  Sam and Steve had for the first time acknowledged, to each other, that they had lost their Mom and Dad.  As they remained on the porch, they embraced each other. 

 

They had embraced in pretty much in the same spot that Walter always sat to tell his stories.  There was a brief quiet sobbing together and then Sam turned to come into the house.

 

Steve stayed and waited for Warner.  Warner came up the steps to the porch with his extended hand and offered his condolences, “Steve, you know we are standing with you and your entire family.”

 

Warner continued, “Anything we can do, we want you to know we will do it.”

 

Steve responded, “The family appreciates that.  Thank you.”

 

Steve continued, “We probably need to get down to business as soon as possible.  This is not going to be easy especially for Sam.  But it has to be done!”

 

Steve asked, “You have everything we need including the forms that Sam will need to sign?  You know we have to file them with the state.”

 

“Yes,” Warner replied, “they are in my briefcase.”  Steve said, “Well, let’s go do it.”

 

Steve opened the door and Warner entered the room.  Everyone was silent except for the quiet sobbing of Sandra, Joan, and June.

 

Warner went around the room shaking hands with the men and giving hugs of comfort for the women.  He extended his sincere sympathy for what had happened that morning.

 

June went immediately into the kitchen to make coffee for everyone.  They exchanged small talk until June returned with the coffee and Danish from the kitchen.

 

No one was hungry but all went to get a cup of coffee.  June served the coffee and then vanished back into the kitchen to make more coffee for later.

 

Steve stood nearby collecting his thoughts.  Warner mentioned the events of the morning.  It was because of that they were confronted with this meeting.

 

It had seemed like an eternity since Steve had heard that his Mom and Dad were gone.  Hearing others say it who were not family members made it so surreal.  So much had happened in such a short period; yet time was moving so slowly.

 

Steve thought, ““Here I am about to embark on the greatest opportunity of my career yet it was over-shadowed by the course of events in the death of my parents.  This is not the way it was to be.”

 

He lamented, “Dad was supposed to retire.  Mom was supposed to tend to her knitting and yard work.  Together they were to take a cruise somewhere.”

 

He remembered, “Dad often laughed about eating at the ship’s food trough 24/7.  He thought he would gain 20 pounds on one cruise.”

 

Steve considered, “Now everyone has to be on the same page throughout this process.  There cannot be any family distractions with the bank.”

 

Warner took him from his thoughts as he addressed the family.  He asked them, “Please take a seat around the family dinner table.”

 

“My so many family meals we have had here …,” Steve spoke and his words seemed drift into silence.  He remembered, “What great times we have had here.”

 

Steve recounted before Warner began, “Y’all remember having the preacher over on Sunday for Sunday dinner.  The kids – us – had to wait while the grownups ate first.”

 

“How we hoped that the big preacher would leave us at least one chicken leg,” remembered Steve.  “Mom always saw to it that we had plenty to eat, but we just had a way of forgetting that when we saw the preacher begin to fill his plate.”

 

Steve’s thoughts were spinning as the impact of the events of the morning.  It was starting to hit home to him.”

 

He could almost see his Mom scurrying about to get everyone something to eat or drink as she always did.  “Who wanted water, coffee, tea, … anything she would ask?”

 

She would say, “I have biscuits and it will take just a minute to heat them up.  Cookies … I have sugar cookies that the kids love if you want them.  Gosh, this hurts so much – she’s gone!”

 

Steve lamented to himself, “I am not going to make it.  I am going to break down right here in front of everybody … but I can’t – not now – I’ve got to hang on.  This has to be done.”

 

Warner pulled a folder from his briefcase.  He explained, “Certain actions must be in place and take place should death ever claim a family member – that is a principal owner or officer – with a bank.”

 

He went further, “The community and governing agencies have to know that the bank will go on as usual.  They have to know that the bank will have strong leadership in place to make the decisions and that the funding is strong.”

 

Warner relented, “As much as this is a painful time for the family, it must be done for the sake of the community.  It cannot be avoided.”

 

Continuing, he said, “Walter, God rest his soul, set up such a plan several months back.  It was right after the State Banking Commission passed the resolution that it must be done with all local banks.”

 

Warner laid out the details, “What I have here is his plan approved by the Board of Directors in November of last year.  It spells out the procedures for the management of the bank in the event of an untimely death.”

 

He emphasized, “Again, I mention it has been previously approved by the Board.”  Warner passed out the forms with the instructions to Sam, Steve, and Junior.

 

He told Joan, Sandra, and June that as important as they are to their men, they did not hold positions with the bank that needed confirmation by the Board. 

 

“I did want you here for the meeting since it involves the entire family though,” he explained.  “Everyone has a part in this.”

 

Warner began, “It would probably be best if we went through the entire presentation before we have any discussions.

 

“Steve, you are to assume the interim Presidency,” of the Bank immediately,” stated Warner, “and after confirmation by the Board at their meeting which I have asked for on Friday morning, you will be the full fledged President and Chairman of the Board.”

 

Warner continued next to Sam, “Sam, you will receive a promotion to become the Executive Vice President of Operations.  You are to conduct the same work you have been doing only now with a new title.”

 

He related Sam’s responsibility as spelled out in the dossier, “You will work on new projects, building and facilities, computer programming and in general keeping the bank up-to-date with its accounting programs and policies.  And of course any such programs as deemed necessary by the president of the bank.”

 

Finishing with Sam, “This means that you will manage the department heads of the bank.  You personally will answer to Steve, the president of the bank.”

 

“Next, Junior,” Warner continued, “Walter considered you an integral part of this banking institution.  Walter saw in you, the potential for even greater tasks with the bank.”

 

He explained, “Your position is the only position that Walter established with an annual review for possible up-grade changes.  He saw in you that ‘a one-time work evaluation’ was not going to be sufficient for your growth potential.”

 

“He even told me apart from these documents that you are the type that could go from floor sweeper to president and chairman of the board overnight,” emphasized Warner.  “And because of this, you would be evaluated annually for follow up in the event of his death or the death of a principal in the bank.”

 

Warner concluded, “For now, you are promoted to Executive Vice President of Loan Development.  All loans to be approved by Steve as they have been in the past except Steve is now the president.”

 

Warner continued, “Walter wanted all of you to work in conjunction with Steve.  He considered the people that came through the front door – whether stranger or friend – was a friend of the bank.”

 

Warner finished with Junior, “You of course will answer to Steve for final decisions on loans in excess of an agreed amount set by Steve.  That amount will be determined after the Friday meeting with the board.”

 

He concluded, “As you can see, the bank will now have 3 full-fledged members of the family controlling all of the activities of the bank.  Walter felt that all of you are uniquely qualified to fill these positions.  I am certain that it will be approved by the Board on Friday.”

 

“Lastly,” Warner stated, “we will need an audit of the bank records by an outside accounting firm and not only that but a firm selected by the banking commission to conduct the audit.”

 

“This will be set up probably for Monday as it will be the first day of operation that they will meet after the notice of the death.  I suspect it will be a firm like Edgars & Edgars.  They have been doing a lot of work for the state lately,” explained Warner.

 

“The audit can be conducted as you open the doors on Monday,: he said.  “They will do it quietly, discretely, and quickly I might add.  No one including the state wants anyone to lose confidence in the bank.”

 

Having laid out the dossier as planned by Walter, Warner concluded, “In all probability the bank will need to be closed no more than the balance of this week which means you can open again on Monday.”

 

Warner continued, “At the bank on Monday – you need only to instruct your current Operations Manager to meet with the auditors. He can give them what they need to review.”

 

He exclaimed, “The bank opens its doors on Monday – it operates as usual during the audit – and everything returns to normal.  The auditors will not interfere with the operations.”

 

He confronted the grief of the family, ““I imagine you are going to be relatively busy for the next few days.  Take your time and do what is necessary to give Walter and Dessie a celebratory send-off to Heaven.”

 

“I do have some forms,” Warner concluded, “for all of you to sign confirming that you were here.  They will confirm that you are in agreement with what has been discussed.”

 

He stated, “The other areas – I will handle such as certificate of death statements, etc.  We will take care of all of that for you.”

 

He asked, “Before I pass out the forms, do any of you have any questions about what I have covered?  You need to feel comfortable with this before we proceed.”

 

Warner concluded, “Let me hasten to point out that this is not the will.  That will come later; this is for the banking commission to ensure to the community that the bank is safe, sound, and ready to serve.”

 

“You will note that there is only one major change and that is for Steve,” explained Warner, “he has been doing this work for quite a while anyway.”  Walter told me that he had been turning more and more over to Steve anyway.

 

“Do you have any questions?” asked Warner.  “Now is the time to ask them.”

 

Sam who was startled at the change, started to speak, but then just reached out to Warner for his form.  He glanced at it momentarily and signed off on the form.

 

The wives served as witnesses for the signings.  Junior reached for his form as well and signed off on it.  Lastly, Steve was handed his form and he likewise signed off.

 

Warner expressed his appreciation, “I appreciate what you have done here this morning.  It is this spirit of cooperation that Walter wanted for his family and the bank.”

 

He finished, “Your taking care of this issue in an upright manner is a manifestation of his trust that he saw in all of you growing up.  May God bless you in all your endeavors with the bank.”

 

Warner continued, “I am sure that Walter and Dessie are gleaming proudly in Heaven right now that everything went smoothly.”

 

Warner covered the last detail for the morning, “You will need a press release and I can handle that for you if you want.  I will get in touch with the Coroner and let him know that we will be working with him preparing a press release and giving it to the proper media outlets.”

 

“At this time for the family you really do not need to be working with all the publicity that this is going to create.  We will ask for the public to grant you your privacy,” commented Warner.

 

Steve had remained silent throughout the meeting although he knew the details.  His Father had shared them with him.

 

As Warner finished, Steve began, “Warner, you have been a friend to this family for many years and for Mom and Dad.  You probably were his best friend apart from the family.”

 

He recounted, “You have known him as well or better than most.  If it is alright with everybody – Sam, Junior, and our wives – I feel that we should let you be the family spokesman to meet with the press and handle all the press releases.”

 

He continued, “Express our appreciation for their concern but please acknowledge our need right now for privacy.”  All agreed and it was settled.

 

Steve walked Warner to the parlor door.  Warner turned and again expressed his condolences to the family and left the room.

 

A compete silence feel over those sitting around the table.  Steve returned and sat down at the table without a word.  Sam got up and started to go outside, but was caught by Joan who embraced him.

 

June moved to be with Junior and Sandra went to Steve holding onto him.  “We all know that we will use the Pace & Pace Funeral Service so I will contact them and give them the go-ahead to retrieve Mom and Dad when the coroner makes his declaration.  We can meet with them the first thing in the morning and set the details.”

 

“Joan, Sandra, and June – if y’all don’t mind – work this out among you.  We will go along with whatever you feel is right.”

 

“Listen to Judy Pace at the funeral home.  She has done this before and will have great ideas of what to do.  She did a great job for our State Representative Burleson when he passed away,” instructed Steve.

 

Steve continued with instructions for the family, “For now, I think it would be wise for us to go to our own homes and let privacy take its course.”

 

He stated, “Those that need to can plan on coming back here tomorrow after the news is out and set up the home as a place to receive folks who want to come by and express their condolences.”

 

Steve said, “We can start about 9 or10 in the morning and go until about 2 tomorrow afternoon.  I will call Warner and tell him and he can include it with the release.”

 

Explaining, Steve said, “I am sure there will be food that will be coming – from our church for sure.  I will have Sandra watch the food and make sure that there is enough – if need be she can order in fast food etc.”

 

He went on, “Joan, it probably would be good for you to assist Sandra.  And you also, June, if you can.”

 

Turning to Junior, he said, “Junior, it will be good for you and June to be here to receive the younger crowd.  There is no telling who will come by.”

 

Steve declared, “Well folks, it is going to start and start soon.  We have to be prepared.  As much as we asked for privacy, we know what will happen.  God bless all of us!”

 

Each left in their respective cars and went to their homes.  All was done that could be done for now. 

 

Steve and Sandra decided that they would go to Nashville to meet John and Sarah when they flew in.  Fortunately, both flight arrivals were within 30 minutes of each other.

 

Even though the circumstances were going to be brutally emotional, they were looking forward to seeing John and Sarah.  It would be difficult for them as well.

 

Steve backed the car away from the home to turn around in the driveway.  Backing, he noticed what seemed to be a cloud over the house that was creating a shadow just on the house alone.

 

“Surely, it must be God expressing His condolences to us for what happened,” he thought.  One thing is for sure; God did not go ‘oops, I did not know this was going to happen.’  He knew what happened and was in complete control.”

 

Steve knew that Walter and Dessie did not have to suffer one moment longer that it was necessary for them to see the glory of Heaven.  After all Scripture says that nothing will be placed on us that is greater than we can bear.

 

“Scripture goes on to say to be absent from the body is to be present with Lord.  Comforting words,” Steve held softly and tightly in his heart.

 

Sam arrived home after stopping for a cup of coffee at a drive thru fast food.  Joan had not yet arrived.  She was going to stop to get a few things that they needed.

 

He sat there in his car still shaken by the meeting.  He understood why his Dad did what he did.  He understood that you could not take a Vice President of Operations from the floor that had never worked with loans or money and make them the President.

 

Sitting in his car, Sam was traumatized nevertheless, “That did not make it any easier.  Steve was talented, and I could have been just as knowledgeable had I been given the opportunities that Steve was given.”

 

“You grow in your work experience through your presentations.  You learn from your mistakes.  Then you work the next presentation and the next and soon you are working at a skill level that far exceeds the first level.  Everyone knows that.”

 

He rationalized, “I was never given the opportunity to advance to that level of expertise.  After all Steve even said he learned more from on-the-job training exposure than at Belmont.”

 

Sam’s mind was still running muddled, “You cannot learn if you have never been asked or never been exposed.  They even say in college the best prerequisite for a course is to take it and fail – then you are better prepared the next time around.”

 

“Darn it – I never got to take the course in the first place much less fail it!”  Sam slammed his fist against the dash in the car.

 

“Steve worked with the men from the power plant; the poultry plant; the lumber mill; the dealerships – everyone that needed help from the bank.  He learned their methods of finance and knew how to help them,” he reasoned.

 

“I could have done that, but now … it is never going to happen,” Sam thought.  “I am over 50 years old with only 15 to 20 more years to work.  What can I accomplish here in that length of time?”

 

He continued to reflect, “I will be locked in this position for the rest of my life.  Is this what I want to do?  Is this all that there is in life for me?”

 

“At my age, I have got to go to work for my younger brother.  I have been working for him all this time anyway,” recounted Sam, “however, I had hoped that when Dad left that I might have a chance to prove what I could do with the bank.”

 

He questioned, “What is the Executive Vice President of Operations if it is not operating a bank?  The way things are right now, I might be working for my son before I retire.”

 

As much as Sam hated to admit it, he was angry.  “I know one thing I could do, I could leave the bank and then they would be in a quandary trying to get my work done by someone else.”

 

Then he thought, “But where would I go – especially making the money that I make now.  Not here in Lebanon that is for sure.”

 

He relented, “If I work a few more years, I can take early retirement and then go ride my motorcycle if I want.  Who cares about a bank when you have a hog,” he smiled to himself.

 

Sam had gotten interested in motorcycles and had purchased a beautiful Harley Hog.  “They can do with the bank as they want without me.  But … can I hold out until I can retire?”

 

He thought about his home life, “Joan would be happy to have me just stay where I am.  She gets comfortable with the money and the fact that we meet our bills each month, have money left over for vacations, retirement funds, and the family.”

 

He considered, “She has her friends; her hobbies; and her clubs.  She does not even need me to help her have a full life.”

 

“Truth be known, she might even secretly wish she did not have me,” Sam surprised himself thinking that.   “That is a harsh reality I do not want to think about today.”

 

He thought, “I lose my Mom; I lose my Dad; and now I think maybe my wife would like to lose me too.  What would I have left – a job I hate, and no one to come home to?  That would be a fine how you do.”

 

Joan drove up and Sam got out of his car to help her carry in the groceries she had bought.  He made a cup of coffee with the Keurig K-cup coffee machine and went to sit in his recliner with everything still weighing heavily on his mind.

 

Joan spoke to him about lunch and he did not even hear her as he was so engrossed with his thoughts.  So much had transpired since he got up that morning,

 

Joan considered it as a step in his grieving process and left him alone with his thoughts.  Sam’s primary thought was, “It is not the money – I have enough money to retire right now.  Plus there will be Mom and Dad’s money from the will.  It is my place in the community.”

 

He reasoned, “My friends will all know that Steve stepped above me.  Further they know that I will never reach the highest position in the bank as Steve will live forever as far as I’m concerned.”

 

His dilemma, “I would not even succeed him anyway.  In all probability Junior would do that.  He is sharp and is going somewhere whether he stays here or moves up with a big city bank.”

 

That thought intrigued Sam, “What if Junior were to go to a larger bank?  Not necessarily a larger bank as such but in a different capacity in a totally different market.  He would do well there as he does here.”

 

Then he extended his thoughts to include himself, “What if I were to go to a larger bank or in a totally different market?  With my money, I could buy in at any level.  Then my friends would not see me under my brother.”

 

“Hmm …,” Sam began to let these thought materialize in his mind as he began exploring other markets he might want to pursue.  “There had to be something,” he thought.

 

Junior followed June home and watched as she parked her car in the garage.  Following her in, he parked his car beside her.

 

He got out and went around the car to the door to the kitchen which was off to the side of the garage.  June was sitting at the breakfast table when he entered. 

 

She asked profusely, “What are you going to do about this now?  You know that Steve has a lot of years left.”

 

“As long as he is President and Chairman of the Board of the Community Bank,” she continued, “he will linger on until he is at least 70 or 80 years old.  Junior, that could be many years from now.”

 

She reasoned, “Should you still be around to assume the position when Steve dies or retirees, you could be in your 70s yourself.  Even if you took early retirement; do you want to wait that long to become the president of a bank when you will be at the early retirement age?”

 

“I say that with the recommendation you got from your Grandfather,” she stated, “and I know you could get from Warner, you could do better than that.  Again, I ask you what are you going to do about this?”

 

Junior was surprised at June and countered, “June, what do you mean?  You want me to go against my Grandfather’s wishes?  That would mean I would have to leave the bank.”

 

“Oh, I know … you want me to go to work for another bank,” he shot back, “News flash, June, there is not another bank in Lebanon right now?”

 

“You want Nashville?  We move – we look for a banking job there where I would have to start over and work my way up?  That what you want?” he shouted.

 

Junior emphatically read the riot act to her.  “My God, woman my Grandmother and Granddaddy are not even officially ruled as being dead yet.  And already you are climbing my back about my position with the bank.”

 

Junior lamented and quieted down, “I am going to be the Executive Vice President of the Loan Division of our bank.  Does that not mean anything to you?”

 

“Junior, I know that you are going through a rough time right now,” softened June, but she pressed on, “I know that you loved your Granddaddy and loved working for him.”

 

She recounted, “I also know that you expected to follow him in his position when he retired and now his death has changed all of that.  The question now is what do you do about it?”

 

June relented, “Yes, being Executive Vice President of the Loan Development is great, but you have to look down the road.  Your Uncle Steve is not going to be leaving the bank anytime soon and you cannot advance past him as long as he is there.”

 

“You are going to have to rethink your position with that bank or another bank if you still want to advance.  That is all that I am asking is for you to just give it some thought.  I know that something will happen,” calculated June.

 

Junior puzzled at the discussion countered with, “June too much is going on right now for me to consider this.  I am going to get by the death of my Grandfather and Grandmother; the audit; my new position and then maybe … just maybe we can have this conversation then.”

 

Junior left the room and went into the den and lay down on the couch.  “Grandfather,” he thought, “what is life all about?  How I wish I could come into your office right now and sit down with you.  Maybe have you tell me a great old story or share with me your wisdom in life in this big ole banking world.”

 

He reasoned as he sat straight up, “Well I know that is over for good now, but I do have all you taught me.  I am going to rely on that for now.”

 

In the midst of his grief and sorrow, Junior lay back down and dozed off in a troublesome daze.

 

June was going to lead Junior right out of Lebanon if she had to by a noose around his neck, “He has the capability, his Granddaddy recognized it; people in town know it; he worked with most of the business people in Lebanon in the bank and they know it.”

 

“Many times,” she thought, “I watched him research the banking journals at night so that he could stay one step ahead.  As they say, he never let grass grow under his feet.”

 

June was proud of him, yet she knew that now would be the time to make her move or he would never move.  She thought, “There is more reason than one to have a mid-life crisis.  I will not let that happen with Junior.”

 

Steve had noticed that Sam had started to ask Warner a question or at least make a statement of some kind when Warner wanted to know if anyone had a question.  It was almost that Sam wanted to object, but then thought the odds were weighed against him and would wait for another day.

 

Sam had encounters when they were growing up when he would maneuver Steve to his advantage.  He always played the odds toward his favor.

 

Even at a young age, if two boys wanted to fight Sam or Steve – Sam would get out of it until the next day.  Then when he caught one of the boys by themselves, he would push the fight.

 

“I had always admired him for that,” thought Steve, “and it was successful more times than just growing up.  Therefore if Sam had a question and had not asked it – he was setting the stage for an encounter when the odds would be more to his favor.”

 

Steve had been more aggressive when it came to disagreements.  He would rush in without rhyme or reason and in most cases come out with cuts and bruises not to mention black eyes.

 

He noted, “It was like a little Chihuahua dog at times.  Dogs have no conception of size.  The smaller dogs will attack a dog three times their size or vice versa.  Regardless of the outcome, the smaller dog will still try to win while he is taking his last breath.”

 

Steve deduced, “You might get by using that logic when you are young.  But as an adult, things had to be different and diplomacy worked better than conflict.”

 

Over the years, Steve had learned to curb his enthusiasm and had found loving better than arguing.  The greatest difference in his life came when he was 16 and went to church camp.

 

Sandra was there and she was the apple of every boy’s eye.  They did not seem to understand that Steve was her boy.

 

  Several of the boys would make unkind remarks about Steve to Sandra.  Walking to the mess hall or around the canteen area they would mock Steve to her.

 

Steve would get so upset and it was all that Sandra could do to keep him from fighting.  One night in the camp worship service, the speaker was telling how Jesus went to the cross after the Jews had persecuted and humiliated him for hours.

 

Steve knew enough about the Bible to know, “Jesus could have taken the entire bunch with one swift kick in the pants if He so desired.  But He didn’t.”

 

The speaker pointed out that the love that Jesus had would have lost its effect if He had fought and won.  If He had taken control of the situation and taken them down a notch or two – where would be His love?

 

Sure, they would have been afraid of Him.  But they would have never understood His love for them if that had happened.

 

Steve did not want fear to be a part of his life whether fear of him or fear for him so he followed the example of Jesus.  He asked the Father to forgive those that made remarks about him to Sandra.

 

The next day, he spent much of his time reflecting on the love of Christ.  God moved in his heart and in the evening service he went forward and accepted Jesus as His Savior.

 

His perspective about loving and fighting took a complete turn that night.  Instantly, his heart was changed, but it did take a few months for it to be reflected in his actions.  “Old habits die hard,” he prayed, “help me, Jesus.”

 

Now even as he had concerns about the meeting with Warner at his Mom and Dad’s home, he knew that he did not want to get into any kind of match with Sam – verbal or otherwise.  He understood where Sam was coming from.

 

With Sam being the older brother, it would normally be thought that he would follow his Dad’s footsteps into the presidency of the bank.  However, his Dad had shared with him several months ago the provisions of the agreement with him.

 

Steve went away from the meeting with his Dad knowing that when or if it should ever come up, there could be some hard feelings expressed by Sam.  He would not understand it.

 

Walter said, “Steve you are going to have to be very diplomatic in working with Sam.”  How right he was.

 

His Dad had tried to bring Sam around to art of banking.  Walter taught him, “It’s a people business and if you are going to succeed you have to learn how to help people that you do not like and to tell people you do like that you cannot help them.”

 

Walter explained it this way, “Either way you have to make those you do not help feel good that you did not help them.”  His Dad concluded, “It is a tight rope that you walk in society and your success is governed by how well you can sell it.”

 

Sam wanted that desperately but on more than one occasion, he did not curb his apprehensions and thus customers went away angry.  It was indeed a tight rope walk.

 

In some cases, Sam was even able to show where the customer was wrong and convince them that it was wrong.  But they still went away angry.  He just did not understand the principle.

 

Sam’s social skills left much to be desired in working with people.  This was the major concern of his Dad.

 

Success in part for Sam was in his ability managing people who worked for him.  He was great as a Vice President of Operations and he kept the bank whirring on time and properly tuned.

 

But his Dad used to say, “There was just more to making a vehicle run than just to have the motor tuned.”  Sam continually missed the point.

 

In Steve’s estimation, “Junior was a totally different person.  He had the ability to do whatever he wanted to do in banking.  He could work with people or tuned the engine.”

 

Steve knew, “The only reason the Community Bank did not make loans to the Standard Oil Company out of New Jersey is that they did not have an office in Lebanon.  Junior would reach out to them if he could.”

 

He excitedly thought, “Junior would have had them in the office and they would have been eating out of his hand had he been given the chance.  He would have flown to New Jersey or wherever their offices were to meet them on their playing field.”

 

Steve knew that when the time came for him to retire, the logical successor to take his position would be Junior.  By that time, Junior would have become quite the expert in every field of banking.

 

He had seen many times when it appeared that when he personally had reached the end of his rope and had presented the best case scenario that he could for one of their prime companies to get a loan – and it looked dismal; Junior would somehow come up with a solution.”

 

“It may not be the best solution,” he thought, “and it may be just a little under the radar.  But it would be a workable solution nonetheless.”

 

“None of Junior’s questionable solutions ever failed to make it by the state auditors,” he recounted.  “And since the principles were performing no one had reason to assume it was a risk.”

 

Steve was going to meet with Junior within a reasonable time after the death of his Dad to ascertain what Junior might want to do with his future.  Steve knew that Junior was going to need to be rewarded for his great effort.

 

“He would be approved for the position of Executive Vice President for Loan Development by the Board.  That would place him directly under me on the organizational chart.”

 

“Further Sam would be under my leadership as well as he would be the Executive Vice President of Operations.  It would be a strange setup for a father and son to be on the same level on the organizational chart,” reasoned Steve, “but it should be an easy working solution.”

 

Steve thought, “I will expect Junior to work on every deal made through the bank from zero up to $100,000 whether as an investment on our part or loan for one of our prime clients.”

 

“Above $100,000,” Steve calculated, “He could bring those to me for my input.  After all I have to answer to the Board and it would require Junior’s heavy involvement anyway.”

 

Steve also knew June, “She was hungry for success for Junior and he felt that this would appease her.  Junior would be vaulted above everyone else on the career ladder and certainly be compensated with a higher salary and benefits package.

 

Friday morning, Steve had invited Sam and Junior to attend the Board of Directors meeting at the bank.  The meeting was set for 9:00AM and they had received assurance from all of the Board members that they would be there.

 

Eight men made their way into the conference room of the Community Bank that morning representing the Board of Directors.  These men all took positions around the conference table.

 

The Board consisted of Dr Earl Malone, a general practice doctor; James Haley, CEO of a growing trucking company with a terminal in Lebanon; Carl Estes, Resident Manager for the Alabama-Gulf Lumber Mill, Lebanon Division; Matt Adams, Water Systems Consultant, for the city of Lebanon; Mark Wilson, local Pastor for the First Baptist Church; John Goodwin, CPA with his own accounting firm; Ray Miller, headed up the Ford dealership, and Jeff Warner, Chief Attorney for the bank who headed up his own law firm.  Warner was not only the Chief Attorney for the bank, but was also a Board member as well.

 

Steve, Sam, and Junior found their seats around the wall surrounding the conference table.  Not yet being members, they were not allowed to join the Board at the table.

 

Sherry Calhoun was brought in to take minutes of the meeting.  Sherry was a trusted employee of the bank for over 3 decades and served as Steve’s secretary.

 

 

Warner sat at the end of the long table making small talk about the weather and his ability to play golf on wet grass.  When everything settled down, all eyes turned to Warner.

 

In the absence of Walter, the meeting was called to order by Warner as the Chief Attorney for the bank.  He asked Pastor Mark Wilson to open the meeting with prayer.

 

After the prayer, Warner veered from the regular order of business to introduce the matters at hand.  Warner was immediately appointed as interim chairman by acclamation to conduct the meeting in the absence of Walter.  This was in accordance to a special amendment to the corporate bylaws of the bank.

 

Warner introduced the meeting format and purpose as defined in the Articles of Incorporation.  He pointed out that the meeting could be conducted only for the purpose given and that no other new business would be allowed from the floor.

 

Steve, Sam, and Junior were introduced as being in attendance and the Board members noted their attendance.  They in turn nodded to the board.

 

Sherry, who was also in attendance was introduced and took a seat.  She was named the official recorder for the meeting and took notes to be filed with the corporate files.  In addition, the meeting was video recorded for posterity sake.

 

Order of business was to replace the late Walter Johnson as Chairman of the Board and President of the bank.  Warner further pointed out that the meeting was in accordance with the proceedings called for by the State Banking Commission of Tennessee.

 

He further pointed out that all the action today had been previously approved at another meeting last November with everyone in attendance.  This meeting would follow those guidelines.

 

Based on their prior approval, Steve Johnson was nominated by the recommendation of his Dad as Chairman of the Board and to serve as President and Chairman of the Board of the Community Bank.  There were no objections and he was elected by acclamation.

 

Steve moved to the head of the table occupied by Warner and Warner joined the others around the conference table.  Steve noted for the board that all the changes necessary to comply with the banking commission were now taken and that the bank stood at the pleasure of the state of Tennessee to perform an audit at their convenience.

 

That audit would be performed on Monday and should be completed by the end of the next workday on Tuesday.  It had been agreed upon with the banking commission that with the advent of computers and high technology equipment; that the bank could be audited and be working at the same time.  Therefore the doors would reopen on Monday for business as usual.

 

Notwithstanding any issues, the bank should receive an A+ Rating and be allowed to continue operating with the approval of the banking commission.  Should there be any discrepancies in the audit; an immediate meeting would be convened.

 

Steve then announced that Sam and Junior would remain with the bank in their same functional capacities, however, Sam would be promoted to Executive Vice President Operations and named a member of the Board.  Further that Junior was being moved up to Executive Vice President for Loan Development and named a member of the Board.

 

Each member was given an organizational chart detailing the chain of authority.  A motion was submitted by Warner that the changes be accepted and that the men be immediately placed in these positions.

 

Given that a previous salary and compensation package had been agreed upon; that was accepted as well.  With no objections, the vote was unanimous.

 

With that acceptance, the organizational structure of the Community Bank would see no change of operation from Walter’s previous management.  It would be business as usual.

 

Steve expressed his appreciation for Sam and Junior choosing to remain with the bank under the extreme circumstances.  And he expressed his appreciation for the Board coming in on a Friday morning to assist with the transition.

 

He further reiterated that starting Monday, the bank would be opened for business with no interference from the audit group that would be coming in.

 

Having no further business to come before the Board, Steve announced that the burial for his Dad and his Mom would be conducted by Pace & Pace Funeral Service with a Memorial Service held at the Lebanon Tiger Stadium at the local high school Saturday morning at 10:00 AM.

 

Pace had been overwhelmed by the concern and condolences of the community and felt it necessary to seek another location since their facilities could not handle the large crowd expected.  The stadium is the largest venue available and we are hoping that we can do it without too much confusion.

 

Interment will follow at the Community Cemetery on White Castle Road.  The graveside service will be private for the family and only close friends.

 

Steve extended an invitation to the Board, “Certainly as Board members you and your wives are invited to attend both services.  You have all been dear friends and we would not want it any other way.”

 

He concluded, “Our family appreciates your cooperation and all that you have done to make this transition as smooth as possible and for your condolences and support through this difficult time.  Thank you!”

 

With no further business, the meeting adjourned.  All the board members came by to shake Steve, Sam, and Junior’s hand and to express their sympathy and condolences.

 

Steve acknowledged his new responsibilities and everyone looked forward to working with him to give Lebanon the fine bank that they had come to enjoy under the regime of Walter Johnson.

 

Steve cautioned that the bank would strive to be as great as it was under his Dad, “But, it is hard to improve on perfection,” he said.  “It could, however, be the end to a family dilemma.”

 

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