Andy Boss has been compared to banker George Bailey in the Christmas classic, "It's a Wonderful Life."

The former owner of St. Anthony Park Bank in St. Paul, he built countless small businesses, volunteered at dozens of charities, and mentored folks across the city.

Boss oversaw boards of directors for groups ranging from St. Paul Public Library to the Northern Clay Center to the St. Paul Public Housing Authority, which named its headquarters after him to honor 24 years of service.

He died March 12 at age 81 after battling Parkinson's disease.

"Andy was St. Paul,'' said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. "It's hard to define him in one or two pieces. He embodied a commitment to St. Paul, to make it a better place."

W. Andrew Boss was born in 1932 to Wallace and Charlette Boss of St. Paul. He graduated from St. Paul Central High School, earned a B.A. from the U, and graduated from the Northwestern University School of Business in Illinois. He served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956.

Boss helped found the National City Bank in Minneapolis in 1964, and became president of the St. Anthony Park Bank (now part of Sunrise Banks) in 1970. His grandfather had been founding director of the bank, and his father a director.

Boss exemplified a different generation of bankers, bankers with the discretion, personal care and business instincts to know when to take a risk on a customer and how to support him, said Rick Beeson, chairman of the U Board of Regents.

"He liked banking, but it was a means to help communities help themselves," said Beeson, an executive vice president at Sunrise Banks who succeeded Boss when he retired in 2001.

Ellen Watters, an area community development consultant, was among the many civic leaders Boss took under his wing.

Watters recalled how Boss hired her to run the St. Anthony Park Business Association, and then encouraged her to work with the Rotary, the St. Paul Library and the Northern Clay Center.

"I think he was the ultimate connector," said Waters. "He enjoyed introducing people to one another and encouraging them to work together."

Watters recalled "president's lunches" at the bank in the 1990s, during which business presidents would acknowledge how critical Boss' support for them had been. He did that for countless people, she said, and not just through loans.

Boss, for example, was a longtime supporter of Park Square Theatre. During a 2012 theater fundraiser held at the bank, attendees honored Boss for his decades of community work. A scroll was unrolled from the second floor of the bank onto the atrium. It contained a list of the nearly 60 nonprofits that Boss had volunteered for, said Waters.

Boss wasn't all work. He enjoyed spending time with his wife, Linda, and friends at their lake cabin, observing birds and nature, and reading everything from ornithology to history, said Linda Boss. He enjoyed going to museums, art galleries and sporting events.

He loved his children and grandchildren, said Linda Boss, adding, "His family was of utmost importance."

Boss is survived by his wife, children Cathleen Gruen, Christine Kiebert-Boss, Wallace Boss, Kevin McCarthy, Kathleen Robertson, Michael Boss, Mary Boss, James Boss, Michael Phillips and Kari Phillips; grandchildren, and sister Janet Albers.

Visitation is from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Bradshaw Funeral Home in St. Paul. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul.

Jean Hopfensperger 612 673-4511