Title: Chairman, Bank of South Orange, NJ Founding father. The $53-million-asset bank is the third that Wigder has founded and the fourth that he's been involved with since he got into the banking business more than 35 years ago. He's now 88.

[Expanded Picture]Persuasive fellow: Wigder founded the bank in 1989, when the recession was starting to pound New Jersey. "When I couldn't get one company to back up stock offerings, I used my experience and power of persuasion elsewhere, addressing a large group of salespeople and convincing (broker) J.B Hanauer and Co. to sell shares," he recalls. The bank operated from a trailer until he concluded negotiations for a building site.

Customer-friendly philosopby: "I'm convinced that the best bankers are those who understand what it is to run a business, large or small," he says. Pushes top officers to mix with customers to "understand their business philosophies as well as their personal goals." Was among the first in the state to start evening and Saturday morning hours.

One in a string: Before State Bank of South Orange, he had been treasurer of Irvington State Bank and founded Suburban Bank of Livingston (now owned by First Fidelity Bancorp. and Village Bank of New Jersey, South Orange.

Background: An American success story. Born in Newark, he dropped out of school as a teenager to sell cars. Says he pawned his wife's ring to join a dealership, and bought the others out a few years later when he was turned down for a raise. Eventually ran three agencies simultaneously; the one in Livingston, NJ, is owned by his son, Robert. Has held a long string of civic and religious positions locally and statewide, including the chairmanship of the State Police Retirement Commission for the past 30 years.

Thoughts on work and age: "My hobby is work.... age is just a number."

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