Editor’s note: Five years ago, we shared a CU Professionals Spotlight on Rich Reimer, a longtime staff member at Huron Area Education Federal Credit Union. This month, Rich will be celebrating 40 years of service, and at the request of his credit union, we are happy to share this updated version with you today.
by Shawn Marie Brummer, Communications Specialist.
Rich Reimer was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada to an American father and a Canadian mother. His father was a minister, and so the family moved several times, as the clergy often transfers from congregation to congregation. He started school in Neche, North Dakota, north of Grand Forks, just south of the Canadian border. He later graduated from high school with a class of 41 students in Leola, South Dakota, which is in the north-central part of the state. In his school days, he was active in band and choir, and also played football and ran track. He actually had dual citizenship in Canada and the U.S. until the age of 18, when he had to make a choice.
Following high school, Rich attended South Dakota State University (Brookings) where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Foreign Language and a minor in education. He studied German for four years, and Spanish for two years. His first teaching job was at Huron High School, where he taught four levels of German to more than 120 students a day.
After teaching for one semester, his next stop was Marburg University in Germany where he studied German literature, specifically the “Novelle,” for one year as a Fulbright Scholar. This opportunity allowed him to improve his German language skills, as well as experience the German culture firsthand during an important time in history, the Cold War.
Upon completing his Fulbright year, he returned to teaching at Huron High School, and spent the next three summers earning his MA Degree in German Education from the University of Washington, and then his Education Specialist Degree from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. With these credentials, he led eight student tours and two adult tours to Germany.
His life changed somewhat when, in the mid-1970s, he was invited by a fellow teacher to attend the annual meeting of the Huron Education Federal Credit Union. The small credit union had been chartered in 1952 to serve employees of the Huron School District. “I liked the credit union ideals,” recalled Reimer. “I became a member, and our family got a car loan several years later.”
In 1983, about the time that the credit union expanded its charter and added the word “Area” to its name, Rich was elected to the Board of Directors, and shortly after, was named the Manager/Treasurer when the previous manager resigned. “Salaries for educators in South Dakota have never been great, so many of us worked second and even third jobs to support our families,” he stated.
His part-time arrangement at the credit union became a very interesting job at times. “I remember in the 1980s making ‘house calls’ in order to serve members who couldn’t make it up the stairs to where the office was located. One time, a member wanted to make a deposit. When I got to their home, I was given a coffee can containing over $5,000 in cash. After counting it on the kitchen table, I wrote a receipt and took the money to deposit. I previously had never seen or carried that much cash at one time,” he shared.
Reimer’s employment with the credit union has always been on a part-time basis, while he maintained his teaching career for 25 years, and then moved into administration for another 15 years. “In the beginning, as the only employee, I was responsible for everything and wore a lot of different hats, from accountant to loan officer to compliance officer – all for $125 a month. Life was simple. We offered only share accounts and loans. Compliance was not a major challenge, pretty straight forward and didn’t require much time. Wow, how things have changed!”
He continues, “Back when I first started, I posted all transactions by hand to ledgers. We had office hours several days each week after school and evenings, as these were the only times school employees could get there. I worked out of a small unused storage room the old Middle School Annex. In 1987 HAEFCU purchased their first computer and software system, and members were able to receive a statement produced on a dot-matrix printer. This opened the door to adding new services, and a second part-time employee, Darel Peterson, was added.”
Reimer continued to serve as Manager until 2001, when Darel and Rich traded positions as more of his time was demanded in the role of school administrator. However, since then, he has continued to serve at the credit union in any role assigned to him – thus his eventual transition to being named “Compliance Officer.” In 2008 he retired from education and was able to spend more time at the credit union. Once again, the timing was perfect as HAEFCU built their own building in 2009 and membership continued to grow.
By 2016, Rich began to reduce his time at the credit union to about 10 hours a week. However, with the unexpected death of manager Darel Peterson, his time commitment increased in order to help with the transition to the current manager, Kristen Jurgens.
“His title may be ‘Compliance Officer’ but Rich is so much more than that,” says Jurgens. “He has donated many hours to helping our credit union, and he has stayed by my side, and I am so grateful for that. There isn't anyone I know who exemplifies ‘People Helping People’ more than Rich Reimer,” she concluded.
It is, in fact, the “People Helping People” philosophy that has kept Rich so involved. “I especially enjoy the ability to help meet the financial needs of the members. One of his favorite memories involves helping a young family through a major financial crisis some 30 years ago. “Their spending was 50% higher than income on a monthly basis,” he explained. “Back then, when credit unions and banks weren’t at each other’s throats, and before HAEFCU offered share draft accounts, the family’s checking account was with a bank. The banker suggested the family come and see if I couldn’t help them. I helped them establish a budget based on their income, and they came in on a biweekly basis for a two-year period to pay their bills and finally get them on firm financial ground.” Rich shared that just a few months ago, he ran into a family member from that time. Once again, the man profusely thanked him for “saving my family.”
Rich says it has been very exciting to see the continued growth of this small credit union. “When I first took over as manager, HAEFCU had just over $280,000 in assets. Today the assets are nearly $16,000,000 and HAEFCU has three full-time employees in addition to my part-time status. We’ve also added share certificates, money market accounts, share draft accounts with debit cards, many new types of loans, electronic statements, internet transactions and a Facebook page, just to mention a few changes. But I didn’t do it; it took the hard work and dedication of the entire staff to get it accomplished,” he concluded.
Besides giving his time to the credit union, Rich has been involved at the chapter level as well, moderating during past open forums. He previously served on multiple boards and committees in the education arena, including serving as state president of two organizations: the SD Foreign Language Association, and the School Administrators of SD. He has been an active volunteer with the local Backpack Program, in addition to volunteering with the local Meals-on-Wheels program. He is a past president of the Lake Byron Development Association, and remains active in his church.
In his personal life, Rich gives credit to his greatest advocate, his wife Pat, whom he has been married to for 56 years. “Her constant support and sacrifice permitted me to continue to work with students over all those years and fulfill my duties at HAEFCU,” he professed.
Rich and Pat have two children and five grandchildren. The Reimers thoroughly enjoy chasing after the grandchildren and attending the many activities that they participate in, ranging from soccer, volleyball, competitive cheer, concerts and plays to competitive dance. When he is not working or chasing, Rich enjoys yard work and gardening. Their favorite time of the year is July 4th, when the entire family gathers at their lake cabin for water skiing, wakeboarding and tubing. “There is nothing better than watching the grandkids having fun,” he concluded.
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