Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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May 5, 2014

Banker, friend, volunteer Stites passes away at 79

— Zane Stites grew up in a two-room shack outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, but went on to become a successful banker and pillar of the community in his adopted home of Corsicana. He died Sunday at the age of 79.

Zane Stites found joy in athletics, spending time with friends and family, and being outdoors. Zane graduated from Stillwater High School and attended Oklahoma State University where he played football. In 1955, he married Susan Collins then joined the Army, where he served 17 months in Korea as a Staff Sergeant.

When he got home, he and Susan went back to their mutual hometown while Zane finished college.

Stites held a series of jobs after finishing college, including working as a collector for the Ford Motor Company, which is how he met banker Everett Musick. Musick was helping start up a bank in Clovis, New Mexico, and asked Stites to come work for him there. When Musick left Clovis for the State National Bank in Corsicana, he asked Stites to come along, again.

“I thought as much of Zane as anybody I ever had working for me,” Musick recalled. “He was a great guy, and a great friend all that time.”

Stites had a lot of characteristics that appealed to Musick, both as a banker and a friend, he said.

“His kindness, his honesty and his integrity,” Musick recalled.

Stites became president of Corsicana National Bank (now Community National Bank & Trust) in 1968 and rose to Chairman of the Board, officially retiring in 2000 but continuing to serve as Chairman for several years.

“Dad was a great model to go by,” said son Tim Stites, who also went into banking. “He led by example in everything, at the workplace and at the house.

“One of the things dad always did at the bank is treat everybody the same,” Tim Stites said. “The guy who comes in with the grubby jeans might be the richest guy in town. You treat everybody the same. He wanted his bank and his family to be fair to everybody. If you do that, you find out that most people are pretty decent folks.”

Zane Stites served on the Corsicana Industrial Foundation, YMCA board of directors and as Kiwanis president. The Corsicana Navarro County Chamber of Commerce recognized him with the Arthur J. Keeney Award for outstanding community service. He was also a trustee of Navarro College for 16 years. He coached Little League baseball, refereed high school football, and drove for Meals on Wheels, Food for Fitness and Road to Recovery. He was a member of First United Methodist in Corsicana, where he sang in the choir, was a member of the Friendship Sunday School Class for 48 years and served on the Administrative Board and numerous committees.

Stites originally came to Corsicana to work for State National, but when Troy Hudson decided to sell some stock in Corsicana National, Stites got a loan to buy the stock.

Gerald York met Stites through Sunday School but when First National was folded into a larger bank, Gerald and some others went over to Corsicana National. Stites put York to work on farm loans, and later sent him out to Frost to help establish that bank.

“He was wonderful,” York said. “In a way, he was too good to the customers, but he gained more confidence from people, and they’d pay us when they wouldn’t pay anybody else.”

“You couldn’t know him and not admire him,” York added. “That’s the kind of guy he was.”

Stites made a number of friends through the bank and through his work with children’s sports teams. He coached Little League with Leland Cook for many years, and Leland was also a stakeholder in the bank.

“Zane was a special man,” said Texas Rep. Byron Cook, Leland’s son. “He provided principled leadership to the bank and the college. He was an exceptional man, and we’ll all miss him.”

Homer Wasson had been on the Navarro College Board of Trustees for about 12 or 13 years when he was asked to go talk to Zane about running, also. Together, they traveled to Austin numerous times, all around the countryside, and even to Moscow, Russia on a tour.

“He was raised up in the country in Oklahoma, and I was raised up in the country in Corsicana. He was an old country boy and so was I,” Wasson said. The worst thing they did together was the occasional chew of tobacco, even going so far as to sneak out of a meeting in Austin to go chew on the capitol grounds together.

“The only thing I regret is that I didn’t know him better, and could have shared more time together,” Wasson said.

Dr. James Price worked with Stites on the college board, also, but he got to know Stites years earlier when the dentist officed in the former State National Bank building, where Stites was a vice president. They pulled practical jokes on one another for years, trading back and forth.

“He was just a good guy. Always in a good mood, never a moment of doubt that I ever witnessed,” Price said. “He was a great man, a real family man and community leader.”

Les Leskoven worked with Zane Stites for years before marrying into the family.

“Though I was privileged to be his son-in-law for just a short time, I was a member of Zane's banking family for over 15 years,” Leskoven said. “The qualities we admired in him as a banker — honesty, kindness, fairness, loyalty and a sense of humor, I saw in him as a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather to his family. He and Susan built a wonderful family legacy together. Zane will be missed tremendously.”

Zane Stites is survived by his wife of 59 years, Susan; their two children, Tim and Karen, and their spouses; six grandchildren and one great-grand child, as well as many nieces and nephews.

Services for Stites are with Griffin-Roughton Funeral Home in Corsicana. Visitation will be at Griffin-Roughton Funeral Home from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 8, 2014. Funeral services will be held at 2:30 p.m. Friday, May 9, 2014, at First United Methodist Church in Corsicana, with the Rev. Connally Dugger, the Rev. Mike Alexander and the Rev. Jay Fraze officiating. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to First United Methodist Church of Corsicana or the Alzheimer’s Foundation.

    —————

Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com.

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