"Bob Barroner was the president and he was wonderful. He gave me free rein and let me know what I needed to do to make it work. It was like being an entrepreneur, groundbreaking stuff for banking. Nobody was thinking that way, the way I was doing things. We called it executive banking.
"Back then, they weren't listening to the customer. I said we could run it with the customer in mind. They always said I never made the same loan twice. They were used to seeing car loan paperwork come through with 48 months for this one and 60 months for that one.
"I was listening to the customer. We designed what was needed for the loan, and the customer got what would work for them. Sometimes it didn't work well for the bank, but it paid off down the road.
"Everything is a big deal in a bank. Whether it's a $100 loan or a $100,000 loan, it's important to the person on the other side of the desk.
"We became BB&T in 2000. That was tough. We had a lot of data processing problems, but we got through it. I retired in 2002.
"I couldn't be a banker today, the regulations. They hamstring everything. You can't move. It was better to be able to listen to your customer. They won't let you do that anymore. You do it the way Washington wants it done. It's sad. And it costs more.
"I married Tucky in 1962. She got sick in 2001. She had unknown primary cancer, a fairly rare form. There is no primary site. It's just there. The only was to treat it is with chemotherapy. She was on chemo the whole time. She died five years ago, in November.
"She was a brave warrior. She met it square on and handled it extremely well.
"Gail Pitchford came to get me for the cancer center. She's head of the CAMC Foundation. We worked at the bank together for 13 years, and we've had a wonderful time working together again.
"Tucky had just died. In late spring, I was still trying to come out of losing my mate of many moons, and they asked if I would consider being the campaign chairman for the cancer center. It turned out to be wonderful therapy for me. I had both a mother and wife who had died of cancer, and I had always done charity work.
"I had a lot of contacts. My family was well known. Tucky was from the Beurys in Fayette County, also extremely well known. You don't want to talk about anybody in Charleston because we're all related.
"I know who's related to whom. Those things just stick in my head. I can remember phone numbers, everything. It started in the gas company when I would go out and lease ground. You get into family trees. People at the bank would ask who so-and-so was, and I would tell them.
"Tucky's mother, Katharine Beury McFall, was the same way. I could ask her about a family in town, and she would tell me all about them.
"You always have trouble getting money from people, but there is hardly anyone who has not been touched by cancer. So they know the need. This community was absolutely fantastic in the way they responded. We raised $15 million.
"The center is due to be completed in March of 2015. I get goose bumps when I drive down MacCorkle Avenue. It is mind-boggling to me that it is happening, something that I was a part of.
"We went to M.D. Anderson [in Houston] with Tucky. It's considered by U.S. News and World Report as the top cancer center in the country. But every treatment she had was in Charleston. That's what the cancer center is all about. It's an outpatient center.
"The crowding in the unit now is terrible. In 2007, they had about 17,000 patient visits, and by 2010, they had 30,000 patient visits. All in the same space. They have no conference room where you can take a family and explain what you are going to do for a patient with cancer.
"We got to Rehoboth Beach, Del., in the summer. They have a beautiful cancer center there. It's got everything this one will have, a healing garden, wonderful infusion bays, night and day compared to what we have now where they are stacked on top of each other.
"In 1973, I put this Fairfax subdivision together with Ken Dunn and Tom Blair. It was a sideline while I was in banking.
"I had triple bypass surgery in 1997, a preventive thing. And I've felt great ever since.
"If I had my life to do over, I'd run it the same way. There are glitches I don't like. Losing my mother at age 8, that's tough. Losing a wife is tough. But I've got three wonderful children, and I have a very supportive family."I don't have anything on the burner. I'm just enjoying myself. I have a new girlfriend. Good things are happening, so I'm happy as a bug in a rug."Reach Sandy Wells at san...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5173.