In life, our paths sometimes cross for the briefest flicker of time with another and we are forever changed. I feel that way about Mr. Clarence Hall. Mr. Hall received the Foundation’s Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2015. He was 90 then. He passed away peacefully on Monday.
I met Mr. Hall three hours before the 2015 Foundation Wegner Dinner was to start. We were reviewing the flow of the event with all awardees. As I welcomed him and introduced myself, I remember the depth of his gaze – warm, deep brown that reflected so much experience, so much life and just a bare glimpse of humor.
As we rehearsed the order of awardees, Mr. Hall’s grandson offered to help him out of his wheelchair and walk up the stairs to the stage and podium. Mr. Hall would have none of it and walked, back strong and arrow straight, to where he would give his remarks.
Mr. Hall was the third in line of our four award recipients that year. To this day, Mike Mercer, who also won a Wegner Award that year, still gives me grief for placing him after Mr. Hall in the line-up. Why? Because when the video of Mr. Hall’s work as CEO of Issaquena County FCU, silence and awe filled the room.
Mr. Hall was not a household name within the credit union system at that time. Nor, arguably, is he today. But for the 900+ attendees of that year’s Dinner, he will always be a legend and an inspiration. Mr. Hall was the living embodiment of “people helping people.” He deeply understood that thrift is an important component of providing financial independence for low-income members and he dedicated half of his lifetime to that mission. Through the years, he made possible countless loans for low-income members to acquire homes, automobiles and immediate personal needs. With every loan or transaction at the credit union came the opportunity for Hall to share his belief in thrift and educate members about sound financial skills. In 44 years, the credit union has never had a single dime missing and had charged-off less than $4,000.
His daughter, Ruth Ann Hall-Evans, eloquently wrote a letter to the Foundation in 2015 of her father’s accomplishments: “Clarence’s efforts to establish a ‘people helping people’ modeled financial institution in a poverty-stricken county took a lot of courage, many sacrifices, dedication and hard work. My father’s perseverance, beliefs, respect, responsibility, and caring heart, along with the will of God, enabled him to give his time and efforts (without a dime in payment of a salary to himself for almost four decades) to embark on a voluntary journey to build something extraordinary for his people, family, friends, and foes that would have a major impact on life as it is now known in Issaquena County.”
I will always cherish the immutable strength of purpose, conviction and possibility in Mr. Hall’s gaze. I will always be inspired by his work, his example on how we can all do more to help people achieve financial independence and freedom. May he rest in peace.
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