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Personal accounts: A blessed perspective


Pannebecker’s club members enjoy a float trip in Montana.

When Vicki Pannebecker realized that a magazine profile interview might involve discussing a little of her private life as well as her professional career, this director of Journeys at Eagle Bank and Trust of Missouri in St. Louis was immediately forthright.

“I have to tell you that my daughter was killed in an automobile accident 12 years ago,” she said. “There is no way I can do this without including Jamie.”

We told Pannebecker we would be privileged for her to share this painful part of her life. As we soon learned, Jamie, whom Pannebecker described as “forever 11 years old,” was also a blessedly wonderful part of her life.

And as bank directors can relate, if not with their own heartbreak, then with the heartbreak of their members, bank travel has been a part of the healing process for Pannebecker that continues to this day.

Part of Her Journey
In 1986, Pannebecker was working for a bank that was about to start a travel program. She said to the new director, “If you don’t ever want to do this, let me know.”

A few years later, she was offered that golden opportunity at another bank.

“Aren’t I lucky? Organizing travel and leading these wonderful people around the country and the world continues to be a job of a lifetime,” she said.

Pannebecker’s current program, Journeys, is a membership-based loyalty club with a variety of bank program discounts. More than 2,200 households are invited to take advantage of three international and domestic extended excursions, three weeklong journeys, five day trips and three festive events every year.

Although this seasoned traveler typically enjoys smooth sailing during her travels to favorite destinations like New Zealand, the Canadian Rockies, Kenya and festive Germany during Oktoberfest, she has a repertoire of humorous stories.

“I had 60 people going on a Panama cruise, and we left here in the middle of a blizzard. Because of air cancellations, we were split up in three groups and sent different directions with hopes we would all meet in a hotel in Florida. Twenty-four hours after we left, I walked bleary-eyed into the hotel at 1:30 a.m. and saw two of our ladies in the lobby who had been waiting hours for me to arrive.

“They wouldn’t go to their room because they were given a queen-size bed instead of two twins. I guess it never occurred to them to ask hotel management themselves if they had another room — they waited for me,” Pannebecker said with a laugh.

“On another excursion to Montana, we had nine people who were all over the age of 70 in a raft on the Flathead River,” she continued. “A raft ahead of us was full of young people, and one of those young guys fell out, and his group couldn’t manage to retrieve him. The situation was rather perilous, and our tour guide immediately barked out directions for us, and we picked him up — it was terrific.

“The story got around, and we were applauded when we arrived at the end of our trip. Our tour guide even presented us all with a roll of Life Savers. It continues to be one of our favorite travel stories.”

Pannebecker’s group is especially fond of day trips that combine fun and education.

“We have an Italian part of St. Louis we call ‘The Hill.’ We had a tour guide that knew Jack Buck, Joe Garagiola and others who grew up there, and what a treat to relive their lives through this entertaining guide. We also did a wine tour in southeast Missouri that was not only delicious but interesting as they showed us what wines to pair with chocolate, fruit and other treats.

“Our mystery trips are also big hits, especially when the convention and visitors bureaus assist, as they did for our ethnic tour in Omaha, Nebraska, where every day was a new ethnic adventure,” she said. “I also use www.roadsideamerica.com for fun places to stop, from the world’s biggest tire in Allen Park, Michigan, to the Garden of Eden in Missouri.”

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