At the U.S. Bank branch in downtown Anoka, customers often ask for Mary Litke, a longtime teller. They will linger in line, waiting for her station to open up, says Alex Segovia, the branch manager. Even if another teller is available, they’ll say, “I’m here to see Mary,” he said.
Some people have even been known to take extra laps around the parking lot, just to greet her in the drive-through.
Many staffers describe Litke, 71, as the “face of Anoka,” Segovia said.
This year is her 50th at the bank, and earlier this month it hosted a surprise party for her, on the same day that Mayor Phil Rice declared Mary Litke Day in Anoka.
Litke, who lives in the city, said she was touched by the events and saved the proclamation of “her day.” “It affirms for me that I’m doing the right thing with my career, and that people appreciate what I do,” she said.
Litke started working for the bank in 1963, when it was the State Bank of Anoka. She’s been there as it became Northern Bank, then First Bank and, in 2001, a U.S. Bank branch.
Although Litke said she took to the job right away, she never imagined that she’d still be with the bank so many years later. Today, she’s the branch’s longest-running employee and “probably the oldest one, too,” she said.
She’s witnessed all kinds of changes through the years.
In the early days, she posted checks to “ledger sheets” by hand. Talking about an Addressograph, a machine that was used for stamping individual records, she said, “nowadays, people wouldn’t have a clue as to what it is.”
In 1973, the whole operation moved to computers. Today, transactions get posted instantly. ATMs do a lot of work that human tellers once did, too. “It’s like everything in the world. Everything is faster,” she said.
Litke remembers helping people balance their checkbooks, something she did for years. “I love to look at anyone’s checkbook and get it into perfect balance,” she said, adding that she finds satisfaction in getting the math to work out.
She still enjoys coming to work every day. The bank has an old-timey quality, between the familiar faces, refreshments and special events. For example, the staff dresses up for Halloween. “I don’t have any intentions to retire just yet. I enjoy being with the people,” she said.
Many of her customers are regulars who have been coming to her for years. Now, their children and their children’s children visit her at the bank. She’s been there for their marriages, births, deaths and other major life events. Likewise, several generations of co-workers have grown up alongside her. She’s still best friends with a few people she met at the bank early on, she said.
That’s why she’s stayed put at the bank. Whether it’s a co-worker or a customer, “to me, they’re like family,” she said.
A mother figure
Segovia, the branch manager, said Litke is a mother figure to everyone who works at the bank. Whether it’s about the bank or a personal matter, “everybody feels comfortable approaching her about issues they’re having,” he said. “She’ll say, ‘Here’s what I would do or wouldn’t do.’ She shares the experiences she’s had in her life.”
Litke is focused on others. She shows that “the more you give, the more you receive. She holds everyone accountable for that,” he said, adding that she’s active with the city’s Halloween Committee and other volunteer efforts.
Michael Ferraro, a district manager for U.S. Bank, met Litke 20 years ago. He said she’s an example of someone who found the right spot and “thrives in that spot and continues to grow and affects others.”
On top of that, “The quality of her work is unsurpassed,” he said, adding that she’s “accurate, fast and she goes with the flow.”
Christine Hobrough, a region manager at the bank, said that when the branch moved into a new building a couple of years ago, “We talked about how this is Mary’s branch.”
Litke, who gets plenty of feedback from customers, lobbied for a drive-through and more ample parking, both of which materialized at the new location. She cut the ribbon at the branch’s grand reopening.
A constant amid change
Bart Ward, who has worked with Litke on the city’s Halloween Committee, has known Litke from the bank “since forever.” His dad used to make special trips from the Lake Mille Lacs area to do his banking in Anoka, just to see Litke.
Anoka City Council member Steve Schmidt and Litke go way back, as well. Schmidt’s dad, Julian, hired her at the old State Bank of Anoka.
While so many things have changed since then, Litke has remained constant. “She’s always very pleasant and glad to see you. She keeps track of your kids and grandkids, all of that stuff. She’s willing to share herself, too — what’s going on with her kids and family,” he said.
Similarly, City Council Member Jeff Weaver, who read the proclamation for Mary Litke Day, said that Mary Ellen, as he calls her, is always upbeat. “I tell her that on a cloudy, gloomy day, she makes the sunshine come out.”
Anna Pratt is a Twin Cities freelance writer.