After 44 years with Wells Fargo Bank, Sharon Starr is trading her banker's methodology for Rotary International work
by: submitted photo,  Sharon Starr encountered plenty of friendly customers during her many years at Wells Fargo Bank in Lake Oswego. Now she is encountering many friendly children on her trips overseas.

aybe 44 years working with the same bank is not a record. But just the same it gets people's attention.

That is what happened to Sharon Starr when it was announced she was retiring from Wells Fargo Bank in Lake Oswego after 44 years of service.

'Oh, no, I don't think it's a record,' Starr said with a laugh. 'I know of a teller who has been there for 50 years.'

But it was finally time to retire, and Starr is hitting the new ground running. She is ready for a life of community and international service, travel and spending lots of time with her grandchildren.

Starr was obsessed with her job as a district bank manager, and that was the way she wanted it. She would work 60 hours a week, and at night she would even dream about banks.

'It was never, ever boring,' Starr said. 'I never had a boring day. There was change constantly and that's something I thrive on. This job fulfilled that need for me.

'But I'm 62 years old and it's time to do something different. I'm very healthy and I want to do this while I'm still young enough to enjoy it.

'I was able to retire when I was ready to do it. Last year I thought, 'This is the year.''

Surprisingly, Starr says, 'I call this my 'accidental career.' Banking was not anything I had interest in.'

Starr grew up in Caldwell, Idaho, where she attended a two-room grade school. Three if you count the outhouse. When she graduated from high school she planned to attend college and become a journalist. But first she wanted to work for a little while.

'I saw an ad for a job in a bank and I decided to apply,' Starr said. 'I didn't plan to work long.'

The ad was for a 'top notch secretary' and paid $300 a month. 'I wasn't sure I was a top notch secretary,' Starr said, but she decided to apply anyway.

However, she found out the opening was actually in bookkeeping at a salary of $275 a month. But Starr decided to 'hang tough' and stick with the job that paid $25 a month more.

The president of the bank gave in, and three days after graduation Starr started work. In those early days, one of her tasks was to make sure the president's pencil was sharpened. It was located in a drawer along with the loaded handgun, which he kept handy just in case a bank robber showed up.

Eventually, Starr 'accidentally' discovered a career that not only met her desires but was extremely rewarding and lucrative. The bank she worked at gradually transformed into a part of banking giant Wells Fargo.

Starr grew right along with it. Although she downplays the pioneer aspect of her career, she pushed to become a bank manager at a time when there simply were not many women in bank management. Starr began her training in 1971 and by 1977 she was managing multiple banks. She moved to Oregon in 1967 and to Lake Oswego in 1986, and she was extremely gratified when Lake Oswego joined her group of banks in 1994.

For a woman who managed banks ranging from Northwest Portland to the coast, adding Lake Oswego was the happiest development of all.

'This is such a wonderful community,' Starr said.

She has helped this community become more wonderful. A dedicated member (and now president) of Lake Oswego Rotary Club, Starr has had tremendous opportunities to meet her desire for community service; a community that covers the world. One day after her retirement on Dec. 31, 2006, Starr and friend Lynne Wintermute were on a plane for a Rotary mission in Thailand to work with the Akha tribe.

'One thing I really appreciated was the ability to be involved in the community,' Starr said. 'I was really encouraged to do it.'

Starr plans to keep right on serving. She wants to go back to Thailand and later will go on a Rotary trip to Tanzania in Africa. But she will also travel for fun, too, including trips to Hawaii and her all-time favorite place, France. For traveling companions she will have a daughter, a granddaughter, and her 88-year-old mother.

'I'm so busy that I don't see how I had time to work,' Starr said.

Starr got a big send-off from Wells Fargo, including having two $1,000 scholarships awarded in her honor. But now she doesn't miss the day-to-day routine of getting up and going to the office. While she misses seeing friends every day, she keeps in touch with her Lake Oswego co-workers and customers. She does admit she finds it a bit strange just being a Wells Fargo customer.

And one more thing.

'I no longer dream about banks,' she said.

After 44 years, Sharon Starr has earned the right to dream about whatever she wants.

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