For the past 37 years, at least one person with my last name worked at Lexington State Bank/NewBridge Bank/Yadkin Bank/First National Bank.
That ended a week ago when my tenure as a part-time employee — who worked in the mailroom the past five-and-a-half years — finally ran its course, staggering down the stretch, looking somewhat dehydrated and nearly out of breath.
The first 31 years were filled by my wife, Kim. She spent most of that time as the assistant to both the CEO and the bank president (it's now deemed improper to label somebody as a secretary, unless they work as the head of a government cabinet position), keeping the ship stable behind the scenes.
She was hired out of junior college and subsequently flourished as a reliable, intelligent and faithful employee for what many customers and clients pretty much remember as an exceptional community bank.
She recalls those years with fondness. She made several lifelong friendships there. To this day, LSB remains a part of her essential core. Thirty-one years.
But times change. In an era of mergers, LSB combined with Greensboro-based FNB Southeast in 2007 in what was said to be "a merger of equals." Well, equal assets, anyway. What became NewBridge Bank turned out to be something less than equal for former LSB employees. Some lost their jobs as a result of the merger. And, at least here in town, some felt the bank had lost some of its personal touch.
Kim lost her job when her position was eventually displaced. She was let go in a final round of dismissals across the bank's footprint. A few months later, I learned the bank was looking for part-time help in the mailroom. I'd already retired from The Dispatch, but I needed to help out financially at home while Kim looked for work. So I applied for the job. And somehow, I got it.
A Wehrle was still at the bank. Go figure. Well, yeah, I worked in the basement, where the mailroom was located, and no one could find me without a map and GPS. But I contributed, and I made some good friends. It was the perfect job for a retired guy. It probably helped that Kim had paved the way before me.
Anyway, NewBridge managed to keep Lexington as its operation center and the bank remained a vital part of the community. Well, at least until 2015, when it was purchased by Raleigh-based Yadkin Financial Corp.
Here we go again.
That seemed to be the end of the merger-go-round, but, no. Within months, it seemed, we found out we were purchased by Pittsburgh-based First National Bank, a megabank.
The acquisition happened so fast, Yadkin Bank never got its signage on the building. Much of the stationery still had "NewBridge Bank" on it. Log-ins still referred to NewBridge, and courier bags from the branches still carried the NewBridge logo.
But it all ended last week. The once-thriving five-story building is now a first-floor operation only. Nearly 200 employees who once worked in the Lexington Main building have been whittled down to about 30 or so.
And for my wife and myself, well, an era comes to an end. A Wehrle has worked at the bank for our entire married lives together.