She’s got the hard-earned savvy.
The admirable smarts.
The memorable smile.
But sitting, as she now does, at the pinnacle of a 35-year career in banking, Heidi Rush, perhaps the most visible face at Farmers State Bank in Waverly for many years, truly relishes in the accomplishments she has achieved so far.
Not of retirement age neither in chronology nor in spirit, she opted to step away from a profession that has molded her into the woman she is today.
She had spent the last 10 years of her career as a private banker, a title earned only by those who take their dedication to their clients to heart.
“My goal has always been to provide exceptional service to exceptional clients,” she says, reflecting on the road she has journeyed in a recent interview with Waverly Newspapers.
A pastor’s daughter, Heidi, the second of four kids, grew up in Sumner, where her dad, Robert, catered to the spiritual and earthly needs of his congregation at the Evangelical Church, and where her mom, Sandy was a seamstress.
Her humble beginnings and the work ethic of her parents taught Heidi to apply herself to the fullest, treat others with respect and recognize and appreciate opportunity, when one knocked on the door.
For Heidi, that happened in the form of a telephone call from the bank president at Sumner’s First National Bank to the café on the town’s main street, where Heidi, then a newly minted high school graduate, waited tables.
So impressed was the late Glenn Weibke with the customer service that young Heidi displayed at the café, and so happy was he that his out-of-town lunch guests always commented on her care-taking attitude, and especially on the beaming smile that accompanied it, that he asked Heidi to come work at the bank.
“You are everybody’s favorite waitress,” he said.
“Did I even apply?” the stunned girl asked, somewhat tongue in cheek.
She hadn’t, but the banker’s recognition of her potential put her on the road to a successful career.
“I was always a very happy girl and I knew that I could use that joy, and spread it around and make a successful career out of it, if I found the right opportunity,” she says.
It took a lot of years of learning, listening, observing and self-development to start climbing the ladder with competence-padded confidence.
Eventually, Heidi moved to Waterloo for her first management position, started a family, and kept her positive outlook despite challenges.
As she grew in her career responsibilities, so did her client roster. The same qualities that got her her first job continued to propel her forward and upward.
Her clients became her friends and she invested herself in them.
She took genuine interest in people’s lives and showed them thoughtfulness and kindness.
By far the most rewarding part of Heidi’s job has been establishing and developing long-term relationships with families, and seeing them grow from opening their first joint bank account to buying a home to opening accounts for grandkids and great-grandkids.
It is this interaction with customers-turned-friends that she said she would miss in retirement.
The relationships she has nurtured will continue to bear fruit.
Over the years, Heidi has shared her expertise with customers and colleagues and mentored generations of budding practitioners.
“Find a way to be memorable,” she tells them, summing up her wisdom. “You are never going to regret exceeding someone’s expectations. You have no idea what a smile can mean to the person you are giving it to.”
She also has this advice for those venturing into service-oriented fields: Serving people in any capacity is a privilege; continue to challenge yourself and never underestimate the power of a smile.
“I believe that with all my heart,” she says. “That one you can take to the bank.”
During her retirement party at Prairie Links Golf and Event Center in Waverly on May 30, where local musician Mike Staebell sang her into the next chapter of her life, Heidi greeted friends and colleagues who had come to wish her the best in her future endeavors.
“She is hardworking, passionate and truly cares,” said Rosemary Hagensick, the owner of a travel agency located at the bank. “She’s a great mentor.”
Krista Wenzel, who played side by side with Heidi in the golf league, said she appreciated Heidi’s outgoing nature.
“She’s just very nice,” Wenzel says.
But even a woman as sophisticated and as dedicated as Heidi could not accomplish everything she has — know that she is also a musician and sings and plays the piano, not to mention performs with the Big Christmas Show at the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, without the support of a caring partner.
For the last 11 years, Randy, Heidi’s husband, has been her rock.
The two enjoy their time together, fishing, traveling, sometimes spontaneously to places like New York and spending quality time with Heidi’s kids, Todd and Lance, and her grandkids, Hendrick, 7, Avett, 4, and Marshall, 1.
“This isn’t a dress rehearsal, Heidi, this is the final act,” Randy would tell her from time to time, a valuable reminder of the swift passage of time.
Heidi says deciding to retire from the bank has been a process.
“It’s a scary decision to make,” she says.
Dale Lemkuhl, who had worked with Heidi at the Sumner bank, and attended the party with wife, Joan, said he would be delighted to see what his one-time colleague has in store for her next chapter.
“Knowing Heidi, whatever she wants to do, she will be able to do,” he says.
Plans are in the works for Heidi to do just that but before she embarks on a new adventure, she will take some time to acknowledge what she has achieved so far.
“I value the lessons I have learned along the way, and all the wonderful people I have had the pleasure of working with and those I have served. I have enjoyed it,” she says.
“I just want to make the most of it and so far, I have. I have always felt the presence of God in my life and I’ve always believed he has guided me. Honestly, I am happy I can say, ‘I am still here and am still smiling.’”