Dee Conrad To Retire January 7

When Dee Conrad retires next week, she will celebrate the end of her 43 year banking career but will also start down a new path in her life’s journey. That journey has spanned over 4,000 miles and many years, leaving her excited to see where it will take her next. “I am eagerly awaiting to see what God has for me. He knows what’s best and where He needs me,” she smiled.

Dee Conrad

Dee’s life began far from the farmlands and four seasons of Fairfield County. She is the youngest of three kids, born in Hawaii to parents who worked civil service jobs for the military. Living near military bases meant there were always people coming and going from the far the reaches of the globe. “Other people never wanted to leave. They never wanted to go anywhere and I couldn’t understand it. All I ever wanted to do was to go. I wanted to see other places.”

And go, she did. At age 19, Dee flew to Baltimore, Maryland on a break from college. “I had blocked out three weeks so I could come to the Mainland. From Baltimore, I Amtraked to Dayton to visit my brother and went on to Chicago to see a friend. It was June but I really wanted to see snow. So I stayed,” she exclaimed with a laugh.

She found a job in the Dayton area and lived with friends of her family until some friends in Lancaster persuaded her to come to their town. She found work as a banker, met the man who would be her husband, saw her first snow and found where she belonged. “It was just flurries but I thought it was fabulous!” she exclaimed.

Where she belonged in her career was in banking. She started as a teller for a small bank in Lancaster. After being laid off from that job, she ended up at a new State Savings Bank being opened in town. She credits a supportive manager who saw her potential for helping her get that job. Dee worked at that office for eighteen years doing teller work, home equity loans and new accounts. She was assistant manager for a while as well.

When that bank was purchased by a national chain, Dee found herself stressed and unhappy. That’s when Ron Collins at the Friendly Bremen Banking Center came knocking. She made the move to our West Fair Avenue location in 1998 and the rest is history. “I have been here ever since. It’s been a good ride and I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful to Ron for giving me this opportunity. I’m grateful to all the people who have helped me over the years,” she said.

As a Senior Personal Banker, Dee assists customers with their accounts, HELOCs and focuses on taking care of the complete customer. “My philosophy when it comes to dealing with people is that I’m of two spirits. The Aloha Spirit is one of treating people really well. There’s also the Holy Spirit which gives me the gift of helping. I love to help others and feel like that’s a special thing that I can do because not everyone has that gift. I try to go the extra mile for people and to listen to what they’re saying as well as what they’re not saying. Sometimes the thing someone is voicing isn’t what they really need,” she said. “It’s important to listen and to look for opportunities to help in whatever way you can.”

When asked what advice she can offer, she had much wisdom to share. “Keep your eyes open for people who need your help and know you can make a difference. Don’t be afraid to let other people in. Your life will be so much richer if you embrace the people around you. Be open to different things and be open to listening to people talk about the things they like to talk about. I love listening to other people when they’re explaining what interests them! You will always learn something. It’s a big world and there are many places to see. Go explore the world and ask questions. Go far or even stay close to home because there are so many things to see right here in Ohio. Be curious and be open,” she said.

Dee and her husband Steve have been married for nearly 42 years. They have three sons, a daughter-in-law and two granddaughters who all live in the southwest. Since Steve is also retired, they hope to spend more time with their family, especially their granddaughters who are now an infant and a toddler.

How will she spend her free time? Dee enjoys reading and sewing and puts her vast skills to work by helping with the drama program at Lancaster High School. For the last fifteen years, she has been involved in the bank sponsored dessert contest at the Fairfield County Fair and is excited that she can enter her own desserts in the future. Her inquisitive nature and love of travel will likely keep her learning and on the go when possible as well.

She also has a giving spirit and mentioned people and groups that may need help although she admits there are plenty of projects at home to keep her busy.

Dee’s last day with the bank will be Friday, January 7. “I don’t know what this next chapter of my life will be like but I’m excited to see where God is taking me. I like to say that I’ve been on that three week vacation since 1978! It has been a wonderful time too.”

Pursuing a Dramatic Passion

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It’s Volunteer Appreciation Week! This is a time to recognize those volunteers who keep the non-profit organizations, churches and civic groups humming across the nation every day. At VCNB we encourage our employees to embrace volunteer projects that they think are important or that they find engaging. While we have a lot of great volunteers in our ranks, there’s one in particular who goes far above and beyond, giving hundreds of hours each year to a project she considers a true labor of love.

Longtime Friendly Bremen Banking Center employee Dee Conrad has spent more than ten years volunteering with the Lancaster High School Drama Department, starting when her middle son became involved with the productions. Her official title is Costume Mistress for major productions at LHS but when she describes her work, she clearly does much, much more than the job title suggests.

Lord Farquaad - Shrek the Musical

Lord Farquaad – Shrek The Musical

The Drama Department puts on two major shows every year: a fall play and a spring musical. Each production requires countless hours of research, searching through the costume storage, Goodwill, Salvation Army, eBay or people’s attics and basements to then manipulate or alter a costume piece or sew something from scratch to make each costume just right for the role and the time period. Dee explained, “We are responsible for every little thing each person needs from the top of their head to the bottom of their feet. That may mean a hat, eyeglasses, jewelry and, of course, the correct shoes in addition to the clothes they wear.”

But first she works with the Director on the production they will do and is involved in the audition process where a committee gives their input to the Director who ultimately decides who gets the roles in the play that may involve anywhere from twenty-five to fifty young people. Each cast member could require as many as five to ten costumes per show. Sometimes the shows are double-cast which allows the less seasoned actors to have a major role for the Thursday night show and also act as understudy for the more senior actors who perform on Friday and Saturday nights. Because these two actors may not be of the same height and build, two separate sets of costumes may be needed.
Once the cast is set, then the real work begins. Along with the help of another long-time volunteer who is the Art/Prop Mistress, each student is measured and their pictures taken. If the show takes place in a time period within the last 100 years, many of the current clothes in stock can be manipulated to fit. If the show is a “fanciful” show like last year’s “Shrek, The Musical” or this year’s “Monty Python’s Spamalot”, Dee takes as many modern pieces as possible and transforms them into period costumes. “For ‘Xanadu’ a few years ago, I used a bridesmaid dress and turned it into the costume of a Greek Goddess. Sometimes it isn’t the actual clothing but the logistics of a show that make it difficult. In “Drowsy Chaperone’, my leading lady had to appear to change into seven different outfits while singing and dancing, all in one musical number. There were many hours of thought and discussion with the Director and Choreographer about how she could accomplish this feat. I was able to finagle and maneuver each piece of clothing just right for her to get this done,” she said.

Donkey (Dakota) & Fiona (Grace)

Donkey and Fiona – Shrek the Musical

Sometimes Dee even sews a costume from scratch, often without a pattern but perhaps working from a picture. She cited one example where a small girl needed a “Madeleine” costume. Working off pictures of this famous literary character, Dee was able to create the collared dress, cape and hat.

Along with research on the right look for a period costume, she may need to learn about period accessories, how to distress a specific type of fabric to make a costume look old or dirty or how to clean and style a wig. Then there is the endless fitting, fixing and adjusting to make each costume look and stay correct. “I assist the actors with their hair and stage make-up, plus I try to look at the actors before they go on stage. Some of the changes the actors must do are so quick that another set of eyes to make sure a collar is down, a shirt is tucked in, a hat is on straight, etc., help to make the production go smoothly.”

The list of responsibilities and the work required for each production seems to be a mile long but Dee takes it all in stride when she says, “It does require a lot of creativity, thought, planning and work. But it always gets done somehow and the results are always spectacular! Our philosophy is that we don’t put on what people might think of as ‘high school’ productions. We do professional work that anyone would pay to see. We strive for excellence in everything we do, from the acting and dancing, to the sets, costumes, lighting and sound quality. Each of our young performers work extremely hard and put in hundreds of hours of their time to memorize their script, learn their blocking, sometimes learn a different accent, perfect their dance moves, etc. I applaud each one!”

Being Costume Mistress is clearly a labor of love for Dee but her efforts don’t stop with clothing and accessorizing the drama students. “I love these kids! I love working with them, seeing them grow from nervous Freshman to confident Seniors! We are family! I do try to be a positive adult role model for them. I try to encourage, teach, laugh and cry with them. I really enjoy seeing them grow and move on to whatever college or career choice they make,” she explained.

She mentioned that this family is looking for a new member as the Drama Department is seeking someone to build sets for future productions. The gentleman who has built spectacular sets for the group for many years is retiring from that position, providing an opportunity for someone else to become involved in the group.

Dee, who was a Theater major at the University of Hawaii, said that she has always loved the theater. She was also good in math at school, so when she needed a job when she moved to Lancaster, she landed a position in banking and has never left. Starting as a bank teller about 38 years ago, she has been with our VCNB family for nearly 18. Dee works as a Retail Banker in our office at W. Fair Ave. in Lancaster. “God puts you where He wants you. I’m a firm believer in that and I believe that I’m here for a reason,” she explained.

She credits her husband Steve for supporting her involvement with Drama all these years. He is also involved with LHS as Asst. Varsity Soccer coach as well as the official photographer for the drama productions. She said, “I’m very grateful to my husband for putting up with so much! A lot of things don’t get done at home when I am in the thick of a show. This time we had a stuffed cow on the dining room table for a few weeks and sequins tracked all over the house. The other day I apologized for all this and he said ‘I just love watching you do the things you love’. And I really appreciate him for that!”

The couple have three sons: Dan and John who both live in Austin, TX and Mike (along with his wife, Mayela) who is stationed with the Air Force in Tucson, AZ. Mike and Mayela are still involved in Community Theater there in AZ. Dee is also a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Lancaster as a Sunday School teacher and in the church choir.

“I really do love working with the kids! They’re a lot of fun and keep me younger!”

We thank Dee for being such a spectacular influence on young people at Lancaster High School and congratulate her for finding a passion that she so clearly loves. We believe the drama students at LHS are very lucky to have her. Great job Dee!