Gaston author pens tribute to Forest Grove bank employees gesture

by: COURTESY PHOTO: WELLS FARGO BANK - Forest Grove teller Joe Strother (left) shares a light moment with Wells Fargo Bank chairman and CEO John Stumpf last week, when the bank executive visited Portland and presented Strother with a token of his appreciation: a box of lollipops.One weekday last fall, Joe Strother was working the drive-through window at Wells Fargo Bank in Forest Grove when a woman and her 4-year-old daughter came rolling through in the outside lane. While Strother was helping the mom with her transaction, he noticed the little girl in the back seat of the car was focused on the lollipops the business offers all its customers.

“I could hear over the microphone that she was really interested in them,” said Strother, a lifelong resident of western Washington County and a 2008 graduate of Forest Grove High School. “She had it narrowed down to three flavors, but she couldn’t quite decide which one.”

So Strother, who joined the downtown bank branch as a teller last June, did what came naturally to him: he showed the family a little love by placing all three flavors into the pneumatic tube and sending it over to Ekaterina Walter, who lives in Gaston, along with her transaction slip.

For Walter — a former Intel employee who contributes regular columns to Huffington Post and Fast Company — it was a pleasant and unexpected surprise.

The author of the 2012 Wall Street Journal bestseller, “Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg,” was so impressed she decided to blog about it on

“It’s the small things that count,” Walter said of Strother’s random act of kindness, which thrilled her daughter Taya, now 5. “I’ve always been a fan of Wells Fargo, but it was a great example of an employee’s passion for his job.”

Walter, who came to the U.S. from Russia 16 years ago, said she put fingers to keyboard because “it makes a good story to connect a brand you love with an experience you have.”

The author and international speaker, who was named one of “25 Women Who Rock Social Media” by in 2012, titled her article “Your Company Is Only As Extraordinary As Your People.” In it, she lauded Strother for always wearing “an ear-to-ear smile when he greets you and for always anticipating his customers’ needs.”

The day Strother gifted her daughter with a triple-supply of lollipops was special. “To my daughter (hence to me), it meant the world,” she wrote. “Sometimes we forget that it isn’t all about grand gestures.”

Not only did Strother gain a lifelong admirer in Walter, but his kindness — and Walter’s blog post — caught the attention of Wells Fargo’s San Francisco-based chairman and CEO, John Stumpf. He presented Strother with a whole box full of lollipops during a swing through Portland April 15.

For Strother, who’ll soon earn a bachelor’s degree in business at Portland State University, the whole episode was heartwarming — and a bit overwhelming.

“I feel really honored,” he said Friday. “That’s what I strive to do every day at my job ... I love to make people smile.”

Make that a pair of jobs. After he leaves the bank at 5 p.m., Strother walks a couple blocks to the Pizza Schmizza on Main Street to work the evening shift several times a week. He’s the assistant manager there.

“I’m a banker by day and a pizza guy by night,” quipped Strother, 24.

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