Very few people know the secret to workplace longevity, but these might be some important hints, according to one Warrenton resident:
Love people. Enjoy helping others. Love what you do and surround yourself with supportive people.
These are things Dorothy Heidbrink lived by for 56 years as an employee at Missouri Bank in Warrenton. She started there at the age of 17 as a teller, served as a bank manager for about 20 years and ended her career Aug. 20, at the age of 73, as a vice president who specialized in retirement accounts.
In 56 years, she saw major changes in banking. Back then, banks used pencils and logbooks. They did bookkeeping with real books. They verified signatures and processed checks, which took days. They also counted cash and used adding machines.
Heidbrink did all that and saw the rise of direct deposit, debit card use, ID fraud and customers foregoing the bank lobby in favor of online banking.
She liked it better when customers came to the bank.
“It was more personal,” Heidbrink said.“Personal” is what made Heidbrink a popular figure at Missouri Bank.
“Dorothy set an example for customer service,” said Ed Buscher, president of Missouri Bank. He started in 1986 and his impression of Heidbrink was that she was full of energy. And always happy.
He said Heidbrink was drawn to customers who needed the most assistance, not just because she liked banking challenges, but because people needed her help.
Because of that, she earned a reputation and a following early in her career. Customers could have gotten assistance from other bank employees, but they would wait in line for Heidbrink.
“When she waited on a customer, she left no stone unturned. She’s leaving a legacy of customer service,” Buscher said. “She has taught me a lot about customer service.”
Heidbrink would introduce her customers to Buscher when they stopped in. It became something everyone appreciated.
During 56 years at the bank, she experienced the joys of helping people reach their financial goals and the trauma of a bank robbery. She said she would never forget it because all she could think at the time was whether she and her co-workers would survive.
“A man came in the front door with a T-shirt pulled over his head, the neck pulled out with one eye showing through,” she recalled the incident.
He had his gun pointed at a co-worker and said he knew where we all lived,” she said.
At the time, Heidbrink, who was the branch manager, had been on the phone with a customer she knew well.
“If I had said something off the wall, the person on the phone would have known something was wrong,” she said.
After the robbery and after the police came and went, the bank reopened and it was business as usual, but Heidbrink, decades later, still remembers it as frightening and traumatic.
Heidbrink was born in the St. Louis area. She moved to Warrenton with her family when she was 11. At 18, she married the boy next door, whom she divorced after a long marriage. They had a son, Don.
She is busy in her personal life. She has friends and many hobbies. Outdoors, she kayaks, bicycles, gardens and runs about 3 miles a day. Indoors, she knits, weaves and cooks.
“I don’t sit very long, but I am getting tired. I need to (retire) while I’m well enough to do it,” she said.
With her days and decades as a bank employee behind her, she said, “I’m proud of our bank and the customer service we’ve given through the years, and proud that we’ve always remained an independent bank.”
During those final two weeks on the job, she shed tears with customers and co-workers knowing how much they would miss each other.
“I enjoy helping people. I think if people enjoy their work, and what they’re doing, that’s really important, and they should enjoy who they work with,” she said. “This was a place where it felt like family.”