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Rosemary Hajost Retires From CBI Board

Rosemary Hajost retired from the Community Bancshares, Inc. (CBI) Board of Directors last month, ending a forty year career as a Director. She joined the Board of the Friendly Bremen Bank when it was acquired by CBI in 1983. In the beginning, Bremen Bank and Vinton County National Bank operated independently under the ownership of CBI. Back then, Bremen was about a $14 million operation. As new markets were added, technology and the banking landscape changed. In 2009 the two banks merged and she remained on the new Board of Directors.

Rosemary is a petite figure and a true lady who is always among the best dressed in the room. But don’t let appearances fool you. She’s a consummate professional, sharp witted and an astute observer. She says she is closer to 91 than she is 90 but carries herself as a far younger woman.

The Lancaster native has enjoyed a fascinating life and career centered in her hometown. She holds a degree in Theater from Dennison University and is well known for her involvement in all aspects of the community.  Among the many hats she has worn over the years, Bank Director is just one of them. Teacher, business leader, school board member, volunteer, philanthropist, wife, mother and grandmother are a few more.

Ask about her life and she will talk a lot about education, a topic near and dear to her heart. Her years in the classroom at Sanderson Elementary helped her see value in an education model where emphasis on grade level is replaced by focus on comprehension and ability. Rosemary and her late husband Leonard were among the founders of West After School Center, a non-profit after school tutoring program in Lancaster. Their goal was to help young people have the best possible start at life through education and mentoring.

She is also proud of her work with the Fairfield County Historical Parks. After she became involved several years ago, the park district was able to pass a levy after ten previous failed attempts. “I’m not saying that’s because of me but we made several changes that allowed us to pass that levy and I am proud of our work,” she explained.

At one point, Rosemary became involved in the family business, Lancaster Book and Office Supply, alongside her husband Leonard. They owned the business for about thirty years, even taking on contracts to run the Ohio University regional campus bookstores for several years.

Listen to Rosemary talk about her community involvement and it is clear that generosity and volunteerism are a way of life. She mentioned things like the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio, the YMCA and civic organizations like Rotary. Then there’s the Lancaster Playhouse, of which she is a founder. She and Len have even been honored with their own space at the Ohio University –Lancaster Library.

While she has backed off most of her volunteer work, Rosemary remains active with friends and continues to support community activities in other ways.

For the last forty years, Rosemary has been a dynamic presence as a bank director and speaks thoughtfully on technology, lending, customers, employees, and all manner of topics related to community banking. She has a knack for asking thought provoking questions that can bring a new perspective to the discussion. Rosemary joined the board when President and CEO Bob Will enlisted her help. “I have such admiration for Bob Will. He put on this country boy act and it was charming but he was much smarter than many realized. I saw the results of his business acumen. This bank wouldn’t be where it is today if not for Bob, she recalled.

She laughed at the memory of meeting Tom Will who served several years as the Friendly Bremen Bank President and is now the CBI Chairman. “They were going to bring in Tom. I thought this boy, this kid is going to play an important role in the Bremen Bank?” she laughed. “I’ve told Tom this story so I don’t mind saying it to you. He has been so good. He understood how technology would help banking and he stayed right on keeping us up to date, more so than some of the big banks in some cases. Tom also oversaw the merger of the Bremen and Vinton County banks. He understood how that would benefit the bank and what it would mean. He has done a fine job moving us into the 21st century.”

But for Rosemary, banking isn’t just dollars and cents. It’s about the people too. “I don’t mean to be mushy gushy but it’s true. They’re wonderful people to work with. We have been centered on building a growing bank that everyone can be proud of but we are also a bank that cares about people. What would we have without people?”

While stepping down is a bittersweet decision, Rosemary said she is at peace.  “Nothing and no one goes on forever. I have been very, very proud to be a part of this bank but I think the time has come for me to retire. I’ve always said I have lived a boring life. Kind of ordinary. But ninety percent of life is just showing up. I’m glad I showed up.”

Showing up indeed. Throughout her lengthy career and a lifetime of volunteerism, Rosemary was devoted to her family as well. She and Len had six children, including triplets. Today they have eleven grandchildren and one on the way. An avid traveler, she recently visited what she calls her “Virginia family” and was able to enjoy some time in Washington D.C. at Christmas. “They tell me they still want me to come as long as I’m able and that feels so good! It feels good knowing you’re wanted,” she said.

Speaking of family, Rosemary’s daughter Becky Hajost has agreed to join the board. She will attend her first meeting this month.

CBI Chairman Tom Will expressed gratitude to Rosemary for her dedicated service. “Rosemary was very instrumental in the success and growth the bank has had these last forty years. In fact, she was instrumental in opening the first branch in Lancaster in 1985 and we’ve had tremendous success there,” he said. “We wish her the best in her retirement!”

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