Getting Jo Dobson to talk about herself isn't easy.
Jo, an employee at U.S. Bank’s Arapahoe branch in south metro Denver, has worked for the bank for 28 years. On Dec. 2, she celebrated her 90th birthday at the branch with colleagues, customers, friends and family.
She didn't want to make a big deal out of her birthday – or herself. "So, are we done now?" she asked (more than once) as we chatted at her desk, a few days before her big celebration. "Come on, you have enough now. I mean, how much are you going to write?"
Then she smiled. A warm, infectious smile that the customers and employees at 7801 E. Arapahoe Rd. have come to know well since she started in 1988, when it was a Bank Western branch. She has done a bit of everything for the bank from wire transfers to loan exceptions, but her favorite thing is visiting with customers.
"Even though I’ve always worked with co-workers who are younger, I love the fact that they will also invite and include me in all U.S. Bank outside activities, and their personal activities, too," said Jo, who has six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. "To be thought of as one of the group, even at my age, is humbling."
Jo is from Omaha and attended the University of Nebraska during World War II. When her boyfriend returned from the war, she dropped out of college to be with him. Although that boyfriend did not end up being her husband, Jo eventually married Jack Dobson and became a stay-at-home mom, raising seven kids while Jack worked in the finance industry. She said she was too busy with the children to think about having a career of her own.
When Jack retired, the couple needed health insurance. So Jo, who was anxious to get out of the house, applied at Bank Western, hoping to start a career at age 62.
She said she had no experience, but credits Terri Townsend, the Arapahoe branch manager at the time, for taking a chance on her. (Terri is now a vice president and project manager in corporate real estate for the bank.)
Terri said it was a no-brainer. "Back in the day, I was looking for a dynamic person to be the receptionist for our branch," she said. "As branch manager, I knew that we needed someone who could talk with people and present the image we want our customers to see. I interviewed Jo, and that was that. She was the best hire I ever made."
"I thought maybe we would be fortunate to have Jo around for three to five years," Terri said. "Now with 28 years at the bank, and at only 90 years young, I figure she must have at least 10 more years she can give us."
Ricky Boccardi, branch operations specialist, has worked with Jo for many years. "She is such an awesome lady. The customers are always looking around the corner when they come in, checking to see if Jo’s at her desk. When she’s not, they ask when she’ll be back."
"Probably because they think I croaked," Jo said, prompting a groan from Ricky.
Jo, whose husband died 10 years ago, has no plans to retire. "At my age, most of my contemporaries are gone," she said. "I have a big family, but everyone is busy. Some of those three-day weekends get awfully lonely. Plus, I love my job."
Heather Draper is a Denver-based member of U.S. Bank's corporate communications team.