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Kathryn Finegan Clark: By the Way

By the Way: Donations in lieu of a retirement party


Her Penn Community Bank business card read Susan Matthias, Riegelsville Branch Manager, but for the people of that town and surrounding townships she is their beloved Sue.

She has just retired after 45 years with the institution that has become Penn Community Bank. Sue’s staff was not surprised when she was approached about planning a retirement party.

She said she’d rather do something for the community. “It was so like her,” said Lynda Hoover, branch sales and service manager. Sue asked for donations for Community Fire Co. No. 1 of Riegelsville.

She said, “I had hoped for maybe $500 or $1,000 for the company, but I was blown away when the donations started rolling in.” On April 10, before hundreds of diners at the fire company’s Lenten Friday fish fry, Sue, choked with emotion, presented a check for $14,000 to the firefighters. Photos of the event and video tributes from friends posted on social media brought in more donations and a week later more money was still flowing in.

Sue chose the fire company because her father, Joe Chavar, who died in 2011, had been a member for 58 years. “He was my hero,” she said simply. Sue was reared by her father and stepmother, Fran, after Sue’s mother had died. Sue was the perfect example of the modern banker, a person who cared bout the people she cared for and served — and they were legion, individuals as well as businesses and municipalities. She created a program highlighting small local businesses, artists and craftsmen, making space in the bank for them to showcase their products.

While she was a fixture in the bank, she was a constant figure at community events in Upper Bucks. Attractive, perfectly groomed, Sue climbed the corporate ladder in what was an almost breathtaking number of years. A graduate of Easton High School, she was only 18 when she was hired as a teller in 1977.

Four years later she opened the Richland Township Branch as manager with four employees. She has been branch manager at Riegelsville since 2005. Sue said of her early years. “Bill Such, then bank vice president, was my mentor and took the time to guide me. He saw something in me that he thought I would be a good fit for the bank. He sent me to work in different departments and I learned all the internal working of the bank.” The Riegelsville office, which is really in Durham Township, on Route 611 is a happy place, the tellers cheerful and helpful and the ambience pleasant.

On Sue’s last days at work, spring flowers surrounded her as she sat at her desk. But there have been dark days, too. Sue has probably lived through more robberies over the years than most bankers. There were actually five, although she was not in the office when one of then occurred. The first was at the former office in town near the Delaware Canal. Later, she witnessed two actual robberies and two attempted robberies. She recalls being terrified when one robber held up what he said was a grenade.

“We couldn’t really see it,” she said, “It could have been a grenade or just a can of tuna. He made us get under our desks.” After security doors were installed at the present bank, a quick-thinking banker blocked one robber’s escape, trapping him between the locked doors until police arrived. She managed her final days as branch manager calmly and efficiently, still able to clean up bank business while handling the constant but welcome distraction of those wishing her well. Sue is now retired and ready to spend more time with her husband, John, who is retired as well and with her two daughters and four grandchildren. “I love the people of this town,” said Sue. They’re so special. They have each other’s backs all the time. I’m so proud of this town—and of the bank. I’m thankful for having been able to serve the community. My father always served the community, I had big shoes to fill.”

And it’s evident, she has done just that.

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