Forever young


Clyde Smith has had a lot to celebrate lately.

Dec. 31 was the lifelong Kurtz resident’s last day working full time at The Peoples Bank in Brownstown after 47½ years in banking.

Jan. 23 was the 50th wedding anniversary for him and his wife, Mona.

And today was his 18th birthday.

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Wait, what?

Born Feb. 29, 1944, Smith is what’s known as a leap day baby, one of an estimated 5 million people around the world whose birthdays happen every four years when the Gregorian calendar is corrected.

Throughout the years, people who knew Smith was a leap day baby have joked with him about it.

“The main thing was, ‘When are you going to be able to drive?’ ‘When are you going to be able to get your license?’” he said. “That’s probably the biggest joke people had. It’s just conversation. People like to kid you and say, ‘How old are you really?’ or ‘Will you ever be able to drink a beer?’”

Smith said he’s excited about celebrating his 18th — or 72nd — birthday.

“I don’t feel 72, and I don’t think of myself as that old, really. I work with all age groups here (at The Peoples Bank), and I try to stay young with them,” he said, laughing. “I can remember when I started in the bank as being one of the youngest ones, and now, I’m one of the oldest. So it has changed over the years as banking has changed a lot over the years.”

Like most leap day babies, Smith still celebrates his birthday every year. In regular years, he typically celebrates Feb. 28.

On Monday, he attended a leap year birthday party hosted by the Bicentennial Planning Committee of Jackson County. He said he was interested in talking to other leap day babies and listening to their stories.

Banking career

After graduating from Clearspring High School in 1962, Smith worked at Cummins Engine Co. in Columbus for seven years.Then one day, John Kamman, president of Citizens State Bank in Ewing, asked Smith about coming to work for Kamman.“I said, ‘Well, I’ll have to think about it and give it some thought for a time,’” Smith said. “Of course, I was driving all the way to Columbus, and this was close to home. I thought, ‘Well, I think it would be something I would be interested in doing and would enjoy this type of work more than what I was doing.’”

Smith’s first day at the bank was Sept. 5, 1969. He worked there until it was bought by Monroe County Bank in the late 1980s, and he stayed on with that company for 10 years until moving to The Peoples Bank.

“I worked just a little bit back in the bookkeeping department and came out and worked the teller line for a while and then worked in the loan department,” Smith said of his start in banking. “I’ve been working in loans ever since.”

Switching careers was an adjustment for Smith, but he said attending seminars and courses and receiving on-the-job training made it a smooth transition.

Working with farmers

When he started at The Peoples Bank, then-president Don Norman needed an agricultural lender. That became Smith’s focus, although he could issue any type of loan at the bank.He had knowledge about agriculture since he grew up around farming.“My dad had a small farm part time, and he worked in Columbus at a factory,” Smith said. “We weren’t large farmers, but I grew up as a kid, and I worked for a lot of the farmers when I was a teenager.”

Smith also operates a small farm at his home, and fellow farmers liked coming to him at the bank with their questions and needs.

“I could relate to the language or what they were talking about,” Smith said. “It keeps you current on what the prices are of livestock and also the grain farming to keep up with input costs.”

Mark Norman, the current president at The Peoples Bank, said it has benefited local farmers to have Smith available at the bank.

“If you’re a farmer and you walk in and you sit down and you know Clyde farms on the side, you know he understands you,” Norman said. “That’s a big key, I think, in certain areas of banking, especially in agriculture. They feel comfortable with Clyde, and they know he farms, he understands farming, he knows what it’s about and they can relate to him a lot easier than somebody else.”

When those customers learned Smith was retiring, he said some of them wondered who would be able to help them. He has let them know that he will still be there a couple of days per week, and he also has trained Jared Stahl on agricultural lending.

“He has an ag background, as well, and that helps a lot,” Smith said of Stahl. “He understands a lot about farming, but what we’re trying to do is get him acquainted with these ag customers and them with him.”

Time to slow down

Smith said he talked to Norman several times over the years about retiring.“A few years ago, I probably thought I would retire at 65 or so,” Smith said. “I didn’t want to at that time, and Mark said I didn’t have to. The bank didn’t make it mandatory, so each year, we would kind of talk about it as to how much longer I was thinking.”Norman said he chose to leave it up to Smith to decide when the time was right; he didn’t have a problem with Smith deciding to stay on in a part-time role.

“He didn’t want to quit cold turkey,” Norman said. “He wanted to ease out if it instead of just saying, ‘I’m done.’”

This past year, Smith finally decided it was time to retire from a full-time capacity.

“At my age, I just wanted to slow down and have more time with the family, and my grandkids participate in sports, and I enjoy going to their games,” he said.

Sports have been his hobby since he played basketball and baseball in high school.

“Back then, when we still had all of the small schools here in the county, that was a big thing when every little community had a basketball team,” he said. “That’s all those small schools had was basketball and baseball back then.”

He also follows Indiana University basketball, the Indiana Pacers and NASCAR, and likes hunting and fishing.

Now that he isn’t working full time, Smith said he also hopes to plan short trips with his family and continue taking care of the livestock on his farm.

He said he has liked working part time because he still gets to interact with customers, co-workers and bank directors. He said he will know when it’s time to stop working altogether.

“So far, it’s working really good,” Smith said. “It wasn’t a total separation form the bank and customers and what’s going on. I get back in a couple of days, and I’ve enjoyed it. I honestly don’t mind getting up and coming to work in the morning. I feel fortunate to have gotten to work all of these years doing something that I enjoy.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Smith file” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Name: Clyde Smith

Age: 72 (born Feb. 29, 1944)

Hometown: Kurtz

Residence: Kurtz

Education: Clearspring High School (1962)

Employment: Recent semi-retiree, switching to part-time work at The Peoples Bank in Brownstown after more than 47 years in the banking industry

Family: Wife of 50 years, Mona Wright Smith; daughters, Teresa (Rex) Meyer and Paula (Mark) Bonebright; grandchildren, Danielle Meyer, Brooke Meyer, Nicole (Clay) Ault, Blaine Bonebright and Bailey Bonebright; great-grandchild, Allison Ault


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