Before Closing The Book on 2011, One More Page

The digits 2011 were carved as the end-date on the granite headstones and electronic biographies of any number of famous people last year. Actor Harry Morgan. Curmudgeon Andy Rooney. iGenius Steve Jobs.

And, sadly, more names and end-dates than space allows here for those who have inspired us, led us, disappointed us, cheered us and, most of all, now reminded us that that trio of words, "life is short," is never really fully realized until, well, you know.

Some of those who left us in 2011, the Rev. Fred Shuttsworths, the Vaclev Havels, the Betty Fords, earned their places in Wikipedia for the pages they added to our histories, a little of which they took with them.

But few of us seem to realize it, yet little bits of history disappear every day with credit unions, too. It's what we point to first, of course, but it isn't the differences in fees and board compensation that are the real differences between CUs and banks. Banks are businesses that are founded to be sold, and when the deal is done and the money exchanged, the shareholders and lawyers collect their rewards and the regulator receives another application for a new bank charter.

Unplug The Crock Pot

But when a credit union disappears and its leftover letterhead is donated to a preschool or just tossed in the dumpster along with the power cords from long-lost devices, little pieces of local, American and even international history fade away with it. An American Legion hall goes unrented when the annual meeting is annual no more; dishes and Crock-Pots no longer need cleaning when the pot luck dinner is out of luck; photos no longer are stuck into the file folder full of "snapshots" of hair styles and fashions that have come, gone, and come back again for display at the business meeting.

As the sign comes down, so too go names reflective of industries that have changed or disappeared, of FOMs in which the bond is no longer so common, of churches that have heard their last sermons, and of management that could no longer manage.

So before they are lost and resurrected only by Google, we remember here some of the credit unions that called to order in 2011 their last board meetings.

We say a final "The End" to you, Motion Picture FCU, but not before recalling there was a time when people dressed up to go see a motion picture; to you, Hollywood Onized Oakland FCU, which had nothing to do with the home to motion pictures but whose name sounds like starlet's affliction; and to you, Off Track Betting CU-it sounds like your charter was a gamble to begin with.

We bid adieu to all those named after communities that live on without them: Cal State CU of North Bay, Greensburg Community, Tulsa Metro, Wisconsin Heights, Como Northtown, Portland (North Dakota), Upper Valley, Utah Central, Saugus, Kulia Ohana, Pacifica-Coastside, Midwest Utilities, Central Minnesota, Minnesota Valley, Fitchburg, San Jacinto, Putnam County, Salem, Dyersburg, Saguache County, Park Community, and Peoples CU of Abilene.

We only hope you had time to print your own obit, Charleston Newspapers, Birmingham News Employees, and Media Hawaii.

And we note that despite the size the name implies, it didn't come to the rescue of University FCU, State Employees CU (Atlanta), or Ukrainian CU.

We wonder if before that last shovelful of dirt was thrown on the grave anyone noticed the irony that even the most optimistic of names are no match for the Regulatory Reaper, and in doing so remember Synergy One, 1st Choice, Premier Financial, Secure CU, and maybe saddest-of-all-to-see-you-go, Land of Enchantment.

Surely, over all the decades countless meetings were called to order with a prayer, and yet in the end apparently there wasn't one even for St. Margaret, St. James A.M.E., St. Vrain, St. Patrick, or even Father Kramer (I guess we'll never know if it specialized in or had troubles with collections).

We say our own prayer that during the eulogy someone shared a few stories so we could have known a little more about Trippler, H-B, Cotrell, GEA, Frontier, Baxter (the FCU), Borinquen, Telecommunity, LEBCO, Vensure, Paragon, Nicolet, M.H.I., Stewart, POC, and BCT.

And finally, we simply surrender to the fact it will always be a mystery whether the CU whose name sounded so romantic and intriguing, Marathon Rothschild, really was; whether members found their interactions to be as colorful as the name implied at Bluebonnet and Brownberry, or whether plain folk shook the dust from their boots and removed their weathered cowboy hats before moseying on into Double Eleven FCU.

Pictures On A Wall

To be sure, while we eulogize the names above, for many the credit union itself goes on, whether as part of a merger or a name change to, as all the press releases say, something "vibrant" or "fresh" or "powerful," seeming to forget that it isn't the name that is any of those things, it's the experience.

In your house you likely have family pictures on the wall. Parents. Grandparents. Uncles. Aunts. Children. They tell your story. They connect you. If your credit union is changing its name, you would be wise to save a sign or two and hang them in your board room. After all, it's important to be connected to where you came from, too. When you're not, it just hastens that funeral.

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at fdiekmann@cujournal.com.