This year holds many milestones for Carol Kelsheimer. This will be the 45th year of marriage for her and Ray, the handsome man she met at a U. S. Organization dance in St. Louis when he was in the U.S. Air Force.
This year marks her 35th year with First State Community Bank in Ironton, Missouri, and she has now been director of the bank’s Horizons Club for 20 years.
It is also the year Kelsheimer plans on retiring. “Yes, December 31st will be my last day,” she said.
The Horizons Club was just two years old when Kelsheimer took charge. With years of banking experience behind her, she shrugged off the fact that leading a travel club had a totally different job description than that of loan processor or customer service representative.
“I had always been outgoing and wanted to be around people of all ages. I had no fear,” she said.
Twenty years later, after circling the globe with the Horizons Club in tow, Kelsheimer still feels the same way and knows she has had possibly the best job in the world. Those rare occasions, like when the hotel fire alarm blared in the middle of the night in Calgary or when at 4 a.m. she searched the streets of San Antonio, Texas, for medication for a sick traveler, are just minor inconveniences, according to Kelsheimer.
“These people are our VIPs. I am there for them and can’t imagine not going the extra mile,” she said.
The Horizons Club has more than 5,700 members bankwide. Sixteen club directors, all of whom work for Kelsheimer, are located in their many branches. Kelsheimer has 647 members at her bank in Ironton, an impressive figure in a community of 3,500. Nearly 50 percent of her bank’s deposits are with her members. “I’ve been told that if you have 25 percent, you have a good club,” she said.
Members must have $5,000 in deposits and a checking account, and guests of members are welcome to travel with the club on any of its 20 annual extended or day trips. Because of the wide geographic range of First State Community Bank locations, the logistics to pick up travelers are often difficult but not insurmountable, according to Kelsheimer. “It’s just like putting a puzzle together,” she said.
Kelsheimer said that although the club’s travels don’t include children, the club has a dedicated day trip for grandparents and their grandchildren.
“Our bank embraces children in many ways, including offering a Junior Savers Club,” she said. Kelsheimer directs the program, which allows children to come in on late Friday afternoons to make deposits with designated tellers, who are also youngsters in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
This vice president also visits third- and fourth-grade classes once a month to talk about the benefits of saving and budgeting.
“We show videos on how money is made,” she said. “It’s really interesting and beneficial to these young people.”
Pooches, philanthropy and pranks
At home on her 13 acres a few miles out of town, with four dogs and two cats, Kelsheimer is a dedicated animal lover and rescuer.
“Part of that is not our choice — people just know that we won’t turn anything away,” she said. “The neighbor’s dogs stay with us half the time, and we have even asked for ownership of one of their dogs that was hit by a car and wasn’t getting treatment.
“While we have all of our animals spayed and neutered, mama dogs in the neighborhood have even brought their puppies to live with us,” she said.
Kelsheimer is also devoted to her community, inclusively called the Arcadia Valley.
“This area has had three or four main industries close their doors in past years, and you know what happens with unemployment. Well, thanks to a beautification and revitalization organization, Our Town Tomorrow, that was established in 1993, almost all of our downtown stores in Ironton are full.
“Thanks to grant money, we purchased an old train station, and it has been completely renovated and is now home to the chamber headquarters and a museum,” she said.
Kelsheimer is not only president of Our Town Tomorrow and treasurer of the Arcadia Valley Chamber of Commerce but president of the area’s senior center and secretary of the Kiwanis Club.
“Yes, I have a busy life,” she said.
With retirement on the horizon, there doesn’t seem to be any chance that this service-oriented leader will spend much time admiring the scenery from her country home’s rocking chair.
“Well, we do have a 1957 Chevy, and we enjoy the hot-rod tours,” she said. “And, Ray, who is never still, loves to build things, and I’ll enjoy spending time with him. We also have grandchildren who are growing up too fast, and I look forward to having them visit.
“But, I have such mixed emotions about leaving these people who have been my family for so many years, and that includes not only employees but our club members. I can say with assurance that I’ll miss experiencing people who get to see and do things that wouldn’t be possible without the Heritage Club.
“It’s been my pleasure to do everything from take a lone traveler by myself to a wild cafe in Lake Tahoe to conspiring with group members to short-sheet a board member’s bed. What a ride.”
When Kelsheimer does retire at the end of the year, she can also make a statement with assurance that doesn’t always apply: Her shoes will be hard to fill.