Three hours before her retirement party, Ruth Ellen Bollinger was busy answering phones, filling out forms and meeting with employees.
"She'll probably work overtime today," said Carroll County Bank marketing manager James C. Wise with a laugh. "Then, they'll probably forward her calls to her home tomorrow."
On Thursday, Mrs. Bollinger ended her 48-year career with the Westminster-based bank, a career she never thought she'd begin in the first place.
"I told my mother, 'I'm not banking material,' " Mrs. Bollinger said, recalling the job offer she received upon graduating from Westminster High School in 1945. "It took me about two or three weeks to decide. Friends and family encouraged me to go for it, and finally I did.
"I've not been sorry that I stayed with one company for all these years."
A successful interview at the home of the bank's then-president, Dr. Lewis K. Woodward, started Mrs. Bollinger's journey in the world of high finance, landing her a job as a bookkeeper posting deposits and withdrawals to local checking accounts.
Eventually, she took over the interview process herself when she helped create Carroll County Bank's personnel department in 1977.
By then, the bank had grown from a single office next to the current Westminster branch of the Carroll County Public Library on Main Street to an institution of four offices and nearly 100 employees.
Carroll County Bank and Trust now employs 253 people in 12 offices across the county.
"We had to establish bank policies, employee services, job evaluations and descriptions," Mrs. Bollinger said. "As we got closer to 100 employees, we had to set up an affirmative action program.
"[Before that,] the bank president and his secretary kept the records, what few there were."
But once into her career, the path made sense.
Banking runs in the Bollinger family: her husband, Richard, retired from Maryland National Bank in 1989 and her three sisters-in-law have bank careers at Taneytown Bank and Trust and NationsBank in Columbia.
"We didn't discuss banking when we were together," Mrs. Bollinger said. "We didn't compete. We just got together and forgot about it, enjoying each other's friendship."
Mrs. Bollinger, who credits her success to educational opportunities offered by the bank, became a vice president in 1981 and assumed her current position as vice president of compensation and benefits in 1988.
In addition to classes offered through the American Institute of Banking and the American Banking Association, she completed courses at Frederick and Catonsville community colleges and Towson State.
"There have been so many opportunities afforded to me for my professional growth," she said. "The bank has been dedicated to ensuring employees have opportunities for growth."
But Mrs. Bollinger said she regrets never channeling her courses into earning a specific degree.
"I can see a difference in people who have a degree," she said. "They catch on easier and it adds to their personal growth. It helps to discipline you within your position."
Her husband's retirement four years ago helped push her toward considering taking time off, Mrs. Bollinger said.
But, until recently, she wasn't emotionally ready, she said.
"I was enjoying what I was doing and learning something new every day," Mrs. Bollinger said. "I enjoyed being with these people. They're like a family, crazy as they are."
Her time will now be dedicated to working in her garden and spending time with her husband of 45 years, she said.
"I've got a lot of work to do in the yard, making it maintenance-free," Mrs. Bollinger said with a laugh. "I'll be enjoying the things that I've not been able to do."
Frequent trips to Wisconsin to visit her daughter, Susan Oakes, and her three grandchildren are also on the agenda.
"I'll be leaving a lot of good friends here," Mrs. Bollinger said. "But, it is time to step into another cycle of my life."