It would be hard to be more dedicated than E.T. Summers Jr. was to TrustTexas Bank.

At age 95 and in a San Antonio nursing home, longtime chairman Summers had his son drive him to New Braunfels, so he could see construction of TrustTexas's newest branch firsthand.

Summers, who was also a businessman and civic leader in south Texas, died Tuesday of natural causes.

Summers spent 63 years on the board of the community bank, joining it in 1951 when he was an executive at the local Coca-Cola bottling plant. He became chairman in 1990 and assumed the role of chairman emeritus this year.

He held the dual roles of many small-town bankers: part business leader, part community ambassador.

TrustTexas is located in Cuero, Texas, a 7,000-resident county seat in southeast Texas. The town is best known as the center of the recent Eagle Ford Shale energy boom. It's also famous for its annual "Turkey Trot" festival, which celebrates the region's poultry industry.

As a board member, Summers oversaw the transition of the bank from a small savings bank to a $264 million-asset mutual holding company. It now has a reputation as a regional leader in commercial and agricultural lending.

"He saw so much change back to when it was a savings [bank]," Chief Executive Jay Howard says. "He was a forward thinker and a catalyst. He helped build the town."

Summers served in World War II and earned a business degree from Harvard University, as part of an Army program to train lieutenants about how to negotiate with government contractors.

His knowledge of the community helped guide the bank through financial downturns, bank officials say.

He is credited most recently with leading the bank through a disruption in its loan business, which stemmed from the Eagle Ford Shale oil boom. Starting in 2008, local farmers and ranchers, who had previously relied on the bank to finance equipment, sold their mineral rights for large sums of cash. The bank's loan-to-deposit ratios declined.

Summers directed the bank to hire two more loan officers to generate commercial and agricultural business.

"He always wanted our employees to get out and press the flesh," says Cheryl Bramlette, a senior vice president and board secretary at TrustTexas. "Where most older gentlemen would be terribly conservative, he in the end wanted us to grow."

He remained deeply invested in the community bank's performance until the end. Besides visiting the New Braunfels branch site, he called the bank president from his home to ask him for profitability numbers.

Summers' wife, Lou Cretia, passed away in 2005. He had three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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