A long, vibrant and decorated career came to an end Sunday morning as The Callaway Bank CEO Bruce Harris passed away, peacefully in his home following a long battle with lung cancer.
But those who knew him don't just grieve the loss of the bank's leader. They mourn a mentor, friend, philanthropist and dedicated member of the community.
"You've never met a nicer, more concerned guy," said Jerry Sage, executive director of the Missouri Independent Bankers Association. Sage knew Harris for 25 years and was hired by his uncle, John Harris.
"I've been around a lot of nice people in community banking and (The Harrises) are the epitome of community bankers. He was a wonderful, dedicated individual and we're going to miss him, because we need more of those types of people around."
Harris was born Nov. 3, 1954 to Overton T. and Rosemary Harris. A graduate of Fulton High School, Bruce attended Westminster College, where he graduated in 1976 with a Psychology degree.
While at that school, he was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, along with Blue Ridge Bank and Trust CEO Bill Esry, and longtime friend and Ovid Bell Press CEO John Bell.
"Bruce was truly special," said Esry. "He had an uncanny ability to see through without ego and get to the real issues, which made him a great facilitator and someone who was always able to move the ball forward on whatever cause. He truly was a class gentleman, he truly was a special person."
"CEO of The Callaway Bank" is just one of a litany of titles Harris has held. He sat on the board of the Midwest Independent Bank and SERVE, Inc., and was a founding member of the Fulton Area Development Corporation, to name a few.
"The epitome of Bruce was modesty," said Bell, a longtime friend who called Harris one of the greatest men he knew. Bell and Harris were notorious competitors in the Fulton Street Fair Mule Race, along with Roger Moser. "He was involved with most boards and charitable organizations in the community, and he has truly played a very significant role there."
After college, Harris began his 36-year career at The Callaway Bank, where he served in a variety of positions including lending officer and investment officer before eventually making CEO in 1999.
Kim Barnes, President and COO of The Callaway Bank, attributes much of the bank's success to Harris. It was under his watch that the bank expanded into Boone County, growing its customer base exponentially.