WASHINGTON — More than 500 people filled Foundry United Methodist Church here Sunday to remember Joe Duncan Belew, the president of the Consumer Bankers Association, who died Jan. 7 of a heart attack. He was 59.
Richard K. Davis, the chairman, president, and chief executive of U.S. Bancorp, spoke at the service and described Mr. Belew's passion, genuineness, intelligence, and humor.
"Joe influenced Washington because he influenced people," Mr. Davis said. "Joe had that special sense to know what's really important.
"He was that one in a million person who exposed his heart to his friends."
Mr. Davis, who served on the CBA board for seven years including one as chairman, said Mr. Belew became a trusted advisor. Describing one particular tough call he had to make, Mr. Davis said, "I reached out to Joe — and only Joe."
Mr. Belew, he recalled, asked all the right questions and patiently listened to Mr. Davis's answers. After Mr. Davis made the decision, he said Mr. Belew called three times the following week to see how things were turning out.
"I was overwhelmed by his wisdom and insight," Mr. Davis said. "Behind those jokes is the brilliance of a true friend."
Mr. Belew's humor was celebrated repeatedly at the service, where close friends as well as his children spoke.
The photo on the program captured the Mr. Belew's impishness, and when Foundry's Senior Pastor, the Rev. Dean Snyder, referred to the photo and said, "There was always a gleam in his eye," the crowd laughed in agreement.
Rev. Synder told the congregation that Mr. Belew had been an active member of Foundry for years, and currently chaired its Stewardship Committee. Rev. Synder said Mr. Belew was perceptive enough to pick up on it when he was struggling with a problem related to the church, and Mr. Belew pulled him aside to say, "I know what it's like to lead. You have my full support."
Rev. Synder said of that comment, "It made all the difference in my ministry here."
Bob Hurt, a long-time friend, regaled the congregation with a dangerous canoeing-by-moonlight trip the two had experienced. While Mr. Hurt was simply glad to survive it, he said when they reached safety Mr. Belew turned to him and said, "That was fun!"
After graduating from the University of Georgia, Mr. Belew came to Washington where he worked on Capitol Hill before joining CBA in 1984. He was named its president in 1987. Mr. Belew enjoyed politics and policy making, but when debates ended, Mr. Hurt said, "Joe would still like you even if he couldn't change your mind."
Mr. Belew didn't care for golf, didn't root for football teams, but he loved life and he loved all the people in his life, Mr. Hurt said. "He could start a party all by himself."
Mr. Belew's son, Duncan, agreed.
"My dad never took life for granted — he lived the crap out of it."
His daughter, sounding quite a bit like her father, described him as "the coolest guy I have ever known."
If you have a story about Mr. Belew that you would like to share with his family, you may email it to John Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.