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Personal accounts: Mastering tech and travel

For those who consider themselves technologically disadvantaged in this age of social media, Marsha Scherer has the best two reasons to hone your skills: Being a computer wizard landed her not only the job of her dreams but also Frank, her husband.

Today, Marsha and Frank, who met online in 1999, are partners in life and at work as director and assistant director, respectively, of Travel Masters at the Bank of Siloam Springs in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.

For better or for worse — and at work

In 1997, Marsha had a marketing position with the parent company of the Bank of Siloam Springs, and when the bank started its travel program, she created its logo, website and brochures. Marsha said she “power-dated” Frank in Maryland for a year before getting married and moving, but she continued to freelance from afar for the travel club.

Soon, thanks to her effervescent personality and outstanding marketing skills, she was offered the job as director of Travel Masters, despite living more than 1,000 miles away.

Frank, who had recently retired from his intelligence position with the National Security Agency, enthusiastically agreed to move south. “I was looking forward to playing golf and umpiring baseball,” he said with a laugh.

Travel Masters has no age requirement, and its only prerequisite is that members have at least one account at the bank. After Marsha took the club’s helm in 2002, it rapidly grew from 700 members to more than 1,800 members. Soon, she was taking the group on 20 trips a year.

“I originally asked if Frank could help me one day a week, but it was soon apparent that Frank was not only a valuable asset because, thanks to his past career, he was comfortable in so many parts of the world, but I needed more help. He’s been my full-time assistant for eight years,” said Marsha.

Although Frank described their travel leadership as “a well-oiled machine,” the couple agreed they have experienced their share of bumpy roads, including canceled and missed flights and even a bus driver who suffered a heart attack.

“We make it look like we’re not working when we’re working,” Frank explained. “We want to make it as seamless as possible with no drama. We talk extensively after every trip — what could we have done to make it better?”

Tapping professional resources
Those seamless trips include international excursions, sometimes to Frank’s old stomping grounds and destinations where he had lived and traveled extensively, including Japan, Germany and England.

“Years ago, I occasionally organized golf outings, including accommodations in bed-and-breakfasts, for my co-workers. Little did I know that later in life, I would be doing this as a profession,” he said.

Frank often leads international trips by himself.

“We work almost exclusively with Premier World Discovery, as they do an outstanding job,” said Marsha. “Combined with Frank’s international history and the fact his job was once in national security, our customers feel completely comfortable.”

Marsha is extremely proud of their eight-day domestic mystery trips, and she gives a nod to the talent of convention and visitors bureaus who assist in those top-secret ventures.

“I can’t say enough about the expertise available for travel leaders,” she said. “I remember thinking that our travelers were going to kill me when they discovered they were on their way to a mystery trip in Kansas. But the professionals there helped me put together this wacky itinerary that included receptive services. It turned out to be one of our best trips.

“We meet so many experts from throughout the country at Bank Travel, like the Lobster Lady from Maine. We’re doing a 13-day motorcoach trip to New England this year with the help of this receptive tour operator. She arranges everything, from hotels to restaurants to step-on guides, and was highly recommended by others. We’re really looking forward to it.”

The Scherers’ marketing skills also extend to partnering with the local hospital’s Senior Circle, where dances and movie days often result in additional Travel Masters membership.

“For example, we might have a luau to promote our upcoming trip to Hawaii with the Senior Circle — you can’t ask for a better advertisement than that,” Marsha said.