Learning from the Wisdom of a Centenarian

06/24/22 / Anita Drentlaw

Centenarians’ lifestyle habits are studied and reported on in books. Their secrets to a long and happy life are often quoted. The media cover their fetes, which many presume beyond the capabilities of someone their age. We are in awe of their wisdom and life experiences.

As of June 23, New Market Bank and I have our own centenarian to consult. My grandpa and the bank’s chairman emeritus, Bill Vogel, celebrated his 100th birthday! He will achieve an amazing 75 years in banking this September. 

I’m grateful for grandpa and the lessons he has handed down to my father and me. New Market Bank, which marked 117 years in business on June 10, owes a lot of who we are to grandpa. He solidified the bank in the Elko New Market area and forged strong relationships with area families that remain today. He delivered on our vision of banking as easy and sincere as a handshake.

Grandpa has modeled an incredible work ethic throughout his life and, in fact, continues to be involved in bank operations still today. His hours are limited but he’s in his office a couple times a week. The work has helped him remain relevant, given him purpose and kept his mind sharp. 

As a leader, grandpa determined his priorities both personally and professionally and kept those priorities in focus. Grandpa and grandma, who is 91 years old and was an integral part of the bank for many years, have modeled an active life of family, faith and community. My grandparents have always eaten well and exercised (grandpa played baseball until he was 90 years old!). They have been active parishioners at their church their whole lives and invested time and money to help the community through many organizations, particularly Knights of Columbus and Lions Club International. 

More importantly, they modeled the importance of being present for family. When my sister Karen and I were growing up, grandpa and grandma played with us, made food or baked for us and came to our activities. Despite the demands of growing the bank and volunteering in the community, we always felt we were a priority to our grandparents. 

My parents also prioritized Karen and me among the many demands on their time. They came to all our activities and established family dinner as part of our regular routine – a routine that my husband Jeremy came to appreciate when we started dating. Now, Jeremy and I try to do family dinner with our girls a few times a week. It’s a time to check in and connect with each other.

Like my grandpa, my dad also intentionally chose how to invest his time as a leader. He applied his visionary mind and strategic planning skills to expand the bank beyond our original location and to strengthening the community banking industry, local community organizations and, as an elected official, government agencies. Through their examples, I learned the value of contributing my time to causes important to the bank and me. Yes, volunteer commitments constrain my time, but I hope my daughters are learning through my example that volunteering makes a difference, whether in an industry or a community, and is often more important than donating money.

A few weeks ago, my daughter Kayla graduated from high school. Her senior year was filled with bittersweet moments, like prom, her last gymnastics meet and getting accepted to the University of St. Thomas. As busy as I am as a leader for New Market Bank and the Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota, I wouldn’t have missed those moments and celebrations for anything. 

Like most leaders, I work long hours and am rarely “off the clock,” even on weekends and vacations. But since having kids, I have intentionally set aside time for my family. Their dance competitions, gymnastics meets and other activities are as important to me as management meetings. They get scheduled on my calendar just like a meeting, so I’m almost assured of being there to witness their successes and disappointments and to experience life with them. My girls know I make them a priority.

Don’t get me wrong. As intentional as I am to put family first, I’m not always successful. There are always demands on my time coming from every direction. I know one of the hardest aspects of being a leader is leading ourselves – determining our priorities, putting boundaries in place to protect our time for what’s most important and having self-discipline to act on our priorities.